Incredible depth at Dubai Marathon as Ethiopians dominate

Ayele Abshero leads an Ethiopian 1-2-3 in Dubai, all under 2:05, while Aselefech Mergia win’s the women’s race where three went sub-2:20

Posted on January 27, 2012 by
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Ayele Abshero (organisers)

Just when it looked as though Kenya’s stranglehold on the marathon was getting stronger and stronger, Ethiopia delivered a warning message loud and clear to their marathon-running arch rivals at this morning’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon with an incredible set of performances.

Marathon debutant Ayele Abshero smashed Haile Gebrselassie’s course record by half a minute to win in 2:04:23, as Ethiopian runners filled nine of the top 10 positions. It is by far the fastest marathon debut of all-time and puts him at No.4 on the world all-time list.

The women’s race was similarly outstanding with Aselefech Mergia setting an Ethiopian record of 2:19:31 to win, as for the first time in history three women dipped under 2:20 in the same race.

After a 7am start with temperatures at 12C, the opening pace in the men’s race was relatively steady. A large group of over 30 men gradually accelerated and they reached halfway in 1:02:22.

The group only started to whittle down after the 30km mark, by which time pre-race favourite and former two-time London winner Martin Lel had dropped off the pack. The top five finishers took it in turns to share the lead until Abshero, the former world junior cross-country champion, made his break close to 40km, kicking away to win in 2:04:23.

He was followed over the line some 27 seconds later by team-mate Dino Sefir, who smashed his PB by almost six minutes with 2:04:50. Former world youth champion Markos Geneti lopped almost two minutes off his lifetime best with 2:04:54 in third.

Jonathan Maiyo, the only Kenyan in the top 10, took an eight-minute chunk off his PB to finish fourth in 2:04:56. Never before have more than three men broken 2:05 in the marathon on a legal course, but today in Dubai four men broke that mark.

Best marks-for-place were set for positions from third through to 17th, making it arguably the greatest marathon ever in terms of depth.

In the women’s race, Aselefech Mergia successfully defended her title. While the men’s leaders ran negative splits, the women’s pace was fairly even and a group of nine went though half way in 1:09.42.

Again it was the Ethiopians who fared better in the second half of the race, with last year’s second-placer Lydia Cheromei of Kenya dropping back to finish fifth, albeit in a personal best.

Mergia went on to win with an Ethiopian record of 2:19:31, making her the seventh-fastest woman of all-time. She was closely followed by marathon debutante Lucy Kabuu in 2:19:34, while three more Ethiopians also dipped inside their previous national record – Mare Dibaba (2:19:52), Bezunesh Bekele (2:20:30) and Aberu Kebede (2:20:33).

As with the men’s race, the women’s race in Dubai saw incredible depth and best marks-for-place were set for positions third through to ninth. The top 10 men all set personal bests, while the top seven women did likewise.

The results will also stir up the Olympic selection process for both Kenya and Ethiopia. Kenya has already anounced a provisional squad of six men and six women, but with Lucy Kabuu not included in those names, it means they will be leaving behind a 2:19:34 runner for the Olympics.

Ethiopia, meanwhile, now have an embarrassment of riches and it will make Haile Gebrselassie’s task of qualifying for London 2012 all the more difficult now that there are three Ethiopians under 2:05 already this year – a mark the former world record-holder hasn’t broken since 2008.


1 Ayele Abshero (ETH) 2:04:23 PB
2. Dino Sefir (ETH) 2:04:50 PB
3. Markos Geneti (ETH) 2:04:54 PB
4. Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) 2:04:56 PB
5. Tadese Tola (ETH) 2:05:10 PB
6. Dadi Yami (ETH) 2:05:41 PB
7. Abdullah Dawit (ETH) 2:05:42 PB
8. Deressa Chimsa (ETH) 2:05:42 PB
9. Seboka Tola (ETH) 2:06:17 PB
10. Yemane Adhane (ETH) 2:06:29 PB

1. Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 2:19:31 NR
2. Lucy Kabuu (KEN) 2:19:34 PB
3. Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52 PB
4. Bezunesh Bekele (ETH) 2:20:30 PB
5. Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:20:33 PB
6. Lydia Cheromei (KEN) 2:21:30 PB
7. Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:22:39 PB
8. Atsede Baysa (ETH) 2:23:13
9. Mamitu Deska (ETH) 2:24:24
10. Isabella Andersson (SWE) 2:25:41

Best ever marks for place

1st 2:03:38 Patrick Makau (KEN) Berlin 25.09.2011
2nd 2:04:27 James Kipsang Kwambai (KEN) Rotterdam 05.04.2009
3rd 2:04:54 Markos Geneti (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
4th 2:04:56 Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) Dubai 27.01.2012
5th 2:05:10 Tadese Tola (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
6th 2:05:41 Dadi Yami (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
7th 2:05:42 Abdullah Dawit (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
8th 2:05:42 Deressa Chimsa (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
9th 2:06:17 Seboka Tola (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
10th 2:06:29 Yemane Adhane (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012

1st 2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) London 13.04.2003
2nd 2:19:26 Catherine N’dereba (KEN) Chicago 13.10.2002
3rd 2:19:52 Mare Dibaba (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
4th 2:20:30 Bezunesh Bekele (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
5th 2:20:33 Aberu Kebede (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
6th 2:21:30 Lydia Cheromei (KEN) Dubai 27.01.2012
7th 2:22:39 Sharon Cherop (KEN) Dubai 27.01.2012
8th 2:23:13 Atsede Baysa (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
9th 2:24:24 Mamitu Deska (ETH) Dubai 27.01.2012
10th 2:25:18 Mariya Konovalova (RUS) London 17.04.2011

One Response to “Incredible depth at Dubai Marathon as Ethiopians dominate”

  1. Steve Balmer says:

    Wow! – Awesome performances!

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