Ethiopia’s Tigist Ketema made a stunning debut over the classic distance to win the Dubai Marathon in 2:16:07 . Compatriot Addisu Gobena, another marathon debutant and just 19 years of age, won the men’s race at the World Athletics Label road race in 2:05:01.
Running on Dubai’s renowned super flat course that mainly stretches on Jumeirah Beach Road, Ketema smashed the course record by more than a minute.
Dera Dida and Ruti Aga, who finished first and second here last year, were upstaged by 25-year-old Ketema, who had previously been known as an 800m and 1500m specialist and had never competed at any distance farther than 10km.
With Aga determined to avenge her close defeat last year, she took the early initiative, leading a five-woman lead pack through 10km in 32:18. When the field began to split up after halfway, reached in 1:08:07, Dida began to cede ground to Aga.
But as the race went on, Ketema’s ease began to look more and more ominous for her experienced rivals. She made a decisive move with 5km remaining, ultimately opening up a two-minute gap on Aga as she crossed the finish line in 2:16:07.
“I was quite afraid of the distance before I ran my first marathon but now, I wonder why,” said Ketema, who now moves to eighth on the world all-time list.
Aga finished second in 2:18:09, equalling the PB she set at the Dongying Marathon in October. Dida was third in 2:19:29, just five seconds shy of the PB she set at the Berlin Marathon in September.
Just 18 months ago, Ketema’s time would have also been an Ethiopian record, but she now sits third on her country’s all-time list behind world record-holder Tigist Assefa and world champion Amane Beriso – both training partners of Ketema.
While the women’s race was won in negative splits, the men’s race set off a bit more aggressively.
Gobena, the eventual winner, did much of the pacemaking and led a group of 12 men through the first 10km in 29:33. The group had whittled down to eight men by the time Gobena reached half way in 1:01:53, at which point the lead pack was on course for a sub-2:04 finishing time.
The pace dropped slightly in the second half, but Gobena was always in contention. After passing 30km in 1:28:10, it seemed as though just three men – Gobena, Dejene Megersa and Abdi Fufa –would battle it out for the podium spots. But fellow Ethiopian Lemi Dumecha rejoined them in the closing stages, and it was Fufa who struggled in the final kilometres.
Gobena, who is still an U20 athlete, kicked ahead to win in 2:05:01, leading an Ethiopian sweep of the podium. Dumecha and Dejene Megersa, another debutant, followed in second and third respectively with 2:05:20 and 2:05:42.
Gobena – who is the nephew of Ruti Aga, runner-up in the women’s race – started out in athletics as a javelin thrower but quickly discovered his talent for distance running. Prior to today, his only known performance was a third-place finish at the Delhi Half Marathon three months ago.