Dubai Marathon: Haile's Back (and it's effect on the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon), by Pat Butcher

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Haile Gebrselassie, January 22, 2010, Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net.
Here is Pat Butcher's eye witness recollections of the 2010 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.....but, think about it, Haile runs a 2:06 marathon with a sore back? Each performance makes the little Emperor seem even less of a mortal...

HAILE’S BACK!

Haile Gebrselassie won the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon for the third time in a row this morning (Friday), clocking 2.06.09, and again raking in $250,000, the richest prize in marathoning.

But a back problem, which required intensive pre-race physiotherapy, ruled out a world record attempt from the start, and when two of his lesser known compatriots – Chala Dechase and Eshetu Wendimu - caught him in the final stages of the race, it looked like a massive upset was on the cards.

But the experience of close to 20 years of record breaking pulled Gebre through to his eighth victory in ten completed marathons, with an average time of 2.05.40, easily the most consistently excellent marathoner in history, all capped by his superlative world record of 2.03.59 from Berlin 2008.

Dechase was second in 2.06.33, a personal best by two minutes, and Wendimu was third, the same as last year, but this time two minutes faster in a personal best 2.06.46. Their prizes were $100,000 and $50,000 respectively.

“This night was not a good night for me,” said Gebrselassie, “I slept in a wrong position, on my stomach, and when I woke up, I knew I had a problem, it was not good. I called my physiotherapist, and he came and cracked my back, and said, ‘what have you done?’

“I was surprised at how humid it was at the start, but I still tried to run fast, but at halfway, I decided just to win the race. When the pacemakers dropped at 30k, I tried to go, but I couldn’t change a gear, so I waited for the second group, and just tried to win. I heard the crowd and knew where the finish was, and I was able to win.

“This is not an indication I’m old, I still think the world record can be broken here, but these things happen”.

The upset was reserved for the women’s race. An Ethiopian won, as expected, but it was Mametu Daska rather than favourites, Bezunesh Bekele, who was fourth, or Askale Magarsa, who finished sixth.

A group of eight reached halfway together, but then began to break up, with only Daska, debutante Aberu Shewaye and last year’s third placer, Kenyan Helena Kirop left in contention at 35k. A kilometre later, Kirop was dropped, and Daska and Shewaye continued their struggle until less than two kilometres from home.

Despite being violently sick in the finishing straight, Daska held onto the 50 metres lead she had forged in the last kilometre, to collapse across the finish line, in 2.24.18, another personal best, ahead of Shewaye’s debut clocking of 2.24.26. Kirop was again third, in 2.24.54, a personal best for her. The prize money was the same as for the men.

Conditions had been more clement than expected, the humidity dropped as the race progressed, and the temperature only rose a degree from 17C (62F) between start and finish. And although the direct sun will have made it uncomfortable for the runners in the second part of the race, Gebreselassie has to add the misfortune of a bad back to the overenthusiastic start two years ago – a first half in 61.45, well under world record pace – and a downpour last year, making it a hat trick of horrors affecting an record attempt, in contrast to the much more satisfying victory treble.


RESULTS

MEN

Place bib no name country time $
1 HAILE Haile GEBRSELASSIE ETH 2.06.09 250K
2 DECHASE Chala DECHASE ETH 2.06.33 100K
3 WENDIMU Eshetu WENDIMU ETH 2.06.46 50K
4 ABIYOTE Abiyote GUTA ETH 2.09.03 25K
5 TULU Debele TULU ETH 2.09.43 15K
6 CHELANGA Abraham CHELANGA KEN 2.10.28 14K
7 YIRDAW Dejene YIRDAW ETH 2.10.50 13K
8 MUCHERU Leonard MUCHERU KEN 2.11.08 12K
9 209 Japhet KOSGEI KEN 2.11.20 11K
10 MEKONNEN Yimane MEKONNEN ETH 2.12.39 10K

WOMEN
1 DASKA Mametu DASKA ETH 2.24.18 250K
2 SHEWAYE Aberu SHEWAYE ETH 2.24.26 100K
3 KIROP Helena KIROP KEN 2.24.54 50K
4 BEZUNESH Bezunesh BEKELE ETH 2.26.05 25K
5 ANDERSSON Isobella ANDERSSON/SWE 2.26.52 15K
6 ASKALE Askale MAGARSA ETH 2.27.29 14K
7 TADESSE Tedesse YESHIMEBET ETH 2.27.45 13K
8 GETANEH Genet GETANEH ETH 2.30.23 12K
9 TAFA Woyshinet TAFA ETH 2.32.06 11K
10 DIRIBA Shuru DIRIBA ETH 2.32.36 10K
ends

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