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Ethiopians top Dubai Marathon as hundreds cheer them on

DUBAI // Enduring an 18-hour flight from Colombia to take part in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon yesterday was worth it, says Juan Carlos, a physical training teacher.

“The first few kilometres were difficult, but I wanted to take part because it’s a long course and for me, it’s good for my health,” the 28-year-old said about his first marathon.

He completed the 42-kilometre course in two hours and 38 minutes. “I trained hard for this and I might do it again next year,” said Mr Carlos, adding that he hopes to improve his race time at his next attempt.

“I’m happy with it but I managed to do two hours and 30 minutes in training,” he said. “I think the most difficult part was during the first 15 kilometres when I didn’t feel so good because I think I started very fast and then I slowed down. But at least I learnt for the next time.”

Thirty thousand runners were expected for the marathon, 10-kilometre road race and four-kilometre fun run, as well as 1,000 volunteers.

Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye won the women’s race, finishing in two hours, 19 minutes and 41 seconds, while compatriot Tesfaye Abera won first place in the men’s race, finishing in two hours, four minutes and 24 seconds.

Samuel Kosgei, 29, flew in from Kenya for his fourth marathon.

“It’s my first marathon in Dubai and I did my best time in two hours and six minutes, so I’m very happy about that,” he said.

“I’ll definitely do another one next year because I want to improve.”

Mr Kosgei says he struggled with the heat, as the temperature was forecast to reach 24ºC.

“I expected it to be cooler but, an hour in, it got very hot,” he said. “I like marathons because they’re a challenge. I’ve been training since 2007 and running is my talent. This marathon is a very flat course, which is good, but the problem is the heat, so maybe we should start earlier next year.”

Hundreds of Ethiopians chanted in the stands all morning, waving their national flag as runners made it across the finish line.

Meselch Melramu, a 31-year-old Ethiopian who has been running for a decade, struggled after she hurt her toe five kilometres into the race.

“It was difficult,” she said. “My shoes weren’t good enough, but I managed to finish and I’m happy about that. I’ve done six marathons so far and this was my best time at two hours and 21 minutes. I’ll come back next year and try again.”

An Achilles tendon injury did not keep Mariam Erdogan from her best of two hours and 38 minutes.

“It’s my second marathon,” said the 25-year-old Turkish citizen of Ethiopian origin.

“I ran in the Istanbul Marathon two months ago in two hours and 46 minutes, so although I had pain today, it was a personal challenge.”

Ms Erdogan said Dubai’s flat course was new to her.

“In Istanbul, it’s a lot of hills and slopes,” she said. “It’s not easy [in Dubai] because I haven’t experienced such a course before.”

Running in 23 races in 2010 led to her Achilles tendon injury.

“I like running, especially track, but I had to switch to marathons because the speed is slower, which isn’t as bad for my injury,” Ms Erdogan said.

The race was a personal test for Basim Salah, a 30-year-old Yemeni, who finished in two hours and 15 minutes.

“This is my second marathon and I did it initially to see if I would finish,” he said.

“I only managed to run 38 kilometres in my first one, so it really shows that anyone can do it if they put their mind to it.”

Mr Salah, who works at Dubai Municipality, took part in the race with his friends and enjoyed the day.

“It’s a nice marathon and a lot of fun. I will come back next year.” he said.

For Ethiopian Gudisa Shentama, the marathon was his fourth.

“I did my best time – two hours and seven minutes,” said the 35-year-old. “I really like Dubai and flew here for this. It’s a good location for a marathon because the roads are good.”

He has been running since he was a boy.

“I’ve done 30 marathons so far,” he said. “I genuinely enjoy running and I do marathons around the world when I get the chance, so I’ll definitely be back.”

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(via The National)