Tamirat Tola claims course record as Ethiopian runners sweep Dubai Marathon

Tamirat Tola won the men's race, while Worknesh Degefa won the women's side in her first competitive full marathon.

Ethiopian runners Worknesh Degefa, right, and Tamirat Tola, left, celebrate after winning the Dubai marathon on January 20, 2017. Middle-distance legend Kenenisa Bekele, who was aiming to add the marathon world record to his 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres records, limped out of the Dubai event after a fall. AFP / STRINGER
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DUBAI // There was no world record and for the second time in two appearances Kenenisa Bekele failed to finish, but his Ethiopian compatriot Tamirat Tola made sure there was still something to cheer for the Dubai Marathon organisers as he triumphed in a new course record.

Bekele, who had come within six seconds of Dennis Kimetto’s world record of two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds in last September’s Berlin Marathon, had set his sights on erasing the 2014 mark from the record books in Dubai.

The 5,000km and 10,000km world record holder, however, was tripped from behind at the start and eventually limped out of the race around the 25km mark with a bleeding elbow.

Tola, the 10,000m bronze medal winner at the Rio Olympics, was in the leading pack at the time, but shifted gears soon after.

He had a lead of 58 seconds by the 35km mark and eventually crossed the line in a personal best 2 hours, 04 minutes, 11 seconds to improve on Ayele Abshero’s 2014 course record of 2.04.23.

Mule Wasihun was a distant second, finishing two minutes and 36 seconds, while Sisay Lemma, the Vienna City and Frankfurt Marathon winner in 2015, came in third to complete an Ethiopian cleansweep of the podium.

Ethiopia had a 1-2-3 in the women’s race as well with Dubai debutant Worknesh Degefa securing the biggest win of her career with a time of 2.22.36. Shure Demise, winner of the 2015 and 2016 stagings of the Toronto Marathon, came in second, 22 seconds behind, while Yebrgual Melese was third.

“I am very happy because I participated in Dubai three years ago and I finished fourth, and this year I am the winner,” said Tola, who clocked his previous personal best of 2.06.17 here in Dubai in 2014. “But I am not happy about the time. I expected to do under 2.04.”

Ahmed Al Kamali, president of the UAE Athletics Federation, believes the bridge over the new Dubai Canal had probably slowed down the runners.

“We just missed the world record again,” said Al Kamali. “But we still had a new course record. This is fantastic. The weather was not bad, but, if I can talk technically, there was a little issue with the bridge and they missed about a minute.

“So we have to think a little about the bridge, but overall we are very happy.”

In the wheelchair category, Spaniard Rafael Botello was first across the line in 1.31.19, followed by Irishman Patrick Monahan, while the defending champion JohnBoy Smith finished third.

Canada’s Josh Cassidy, who is the record holder for fastest time in a marathon, was fourth.

“That wasn’t the plan,” said Smith. “I have clocked a minute and a half slower than I did last year.

“At the start I was feeling very good, but about nine miles in, I just started to slow down. Training went OK, preparations were OK.

“So I don’t know what to say. Better luck next year. Next year I will be back, 100 per cent.”

sports@thenational.ae