Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Preview: January 21, 2011, Without Haile, who will win? by Pat Butcher

Kiptanui_Eluid1-Berlin10.JPG                   Eliud Kiptanui, 2010 -real, Berlin Marathon, photo by
With Haile Gebrselassie not running in Dubai this year, for the first time in four years, the little Emperor will not be the winner. Pat Butcher suggests that Eliud Kiptanui might be the logical choice for a winner of this marathon.

Kiptanui is a very talented marathoner. Last spring, Kiptanui ran a brilliant 2:05:39, shattering the Prague Marathon's course record. Volker Wagner, Kiptanui's coach and manager, told Pat Butcher, our globe runner, that Kiptanui is well trained, healthy, and wants to take a stab at the world record.

Mr. Kiptanui could run very fast at Dubai, however, a 2:05 race in Dubai, if the weather permits, would be a herculean effort. Still, Eliud Kiptanui is quite a talent. The marathon gods, however, have this way of demanding respect from the talented and reckless. The key in marathon running is to get as close to the line of being reckless that one can without paying for the consequences of one's actions!

Stay tuned for Friday's race!

Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Preview, by Pat Butcher

The marathon world came face to face with mortality recently, when Haile Gebrselassie announced his retirement. That was soon rescinded. But after three consecutive (and rapid) victories in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, the old master leaves the 'world's richest marathon' this coming Friday (21) open to a posse of young pretenders to his crown.


With first place (men and women) paying a quarter of a million dollars, and a cool million for a world record, there is no shortage of takers to follow the Ethiopian onto the list of Dubai winners, if not the world record ranks.


Fittingly, there are six sub-2.07 men, with another ten who have broken 2.10; but the youngster who tops that list might just be the man to beat.


An 'unknown' East African winning a marathon in a fast time is hardly news nowadays. But Eliud Kiptanui's 2.05.39 victory in Prague last May was, as they say, a bit special.


The 20 year old had won a marathon at home, in hot and humid conditions four months earlier, in 2.12.34. But on a Prague course not noted for its rapidity, due to stretches of cobblestones, Kiptanui made all the running, with a second half faster than the first, and took two minutes off the course record, with the 17th fastest in history.


His second European marathon was not so successful, but a fifth place in Berlin four months later, in 2.08.05 (a world record two decades earlier) could hardly be called a failure for a young man learning his trade.


But his run in Fukuoka just over two months later created another sensation. Engaged as a mid-race pacemaker, Kiptanui was told, contrary to his wishes, that he could not finish the race. But when the previous pacemaker was slower than intended, Kiptanui took off and covered the next five kilometres a minute faster than required. Cue consternation!


So much so that, even though he slowed over the next 10k, an official stood in front of him with a red flag at 30k, to ensure he didn't forget to drop out.


Kiptanui's manager Volker Wagner explains, "He was too impatient, too strong, he put in too much effort. He slowed down, but it was too late, only the winner (Jaouad Gharib) could follow him; the meet director was really mad.


"But he's in good shape for Dubai. There's no pressure, no appearance money, and he can do whatever he wants. He wants to go for the world record at some point, but maybe not this time; just run the course, see what it's like, and prepare for next year".


Chala Dechase and Eshetu Wendimu have already had that induction, in finishing second and third to their illustrious compatriot last year. And  giving him quite a scare in the process. First Chala caught Geb at 33k, then Eshetu joined them shortly afterwards, and for eight kilometres, they traded strides with the world record holder before he eased away to victory.


But Chala's 2.06.33 and Eshetu's 2.06.46 are more than adequate preparation. And if Evans Cheruiyot has finally got over the injuries which have hampered him since his Chicago 2008 win, in a personal best 2.06.05, then he too should figure.


Add to the mix, Deressa Chimsa (2.07.54), Sammy Mugo (2.08.20), Dejene Yordaw (2.08.30), Muguleta Wami (2.08.32), David Kemboi (2.08.34), Dereje Tesfaye (2.08.36), Laban Kipkemboi (2.08.38), and that's a recipe for a burn-up. And while Gert Thys at 39 may not be the force he was when he ran 2.06.33, the South African showed all his tenacity in finishing second in a rain-swept Beijing Marathon last October.


Former winners, Berhane Adere and Askale Magarsa of Ethiopia lead the women's contenders for victory (and $250.000). But Helena Kirop, third last year, and record breaking winner in Prague four months later is just as likely as Kiptanui to make it a double double for the pair of young Kenyans.


But she will have to contend with a half dozen fast Ethiopians, since in addition to Berhane (2.20.42) and Askale (2.21.31), there is also Atsede Baysa (2.22.02), Aselefech Mergia (2.22.38), Koren Yelela (2.24.33), and Roba Guta, just two seconds slower.


There will be more than 14,000 competitors in the three events on Friday morning, the marathon, 10k and 3k Fun Run.


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