FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS FACE STIFF TEST IN STANDARD CHARTERED DUBAI MARATHON
- Rotich and Askale Make Return Date With World's Richest Race -
Dubai (UAE): Just twelve months after lifting the men and women's titles in
the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, Ethiopia's Askale Tafa Magarsa and
Willy Rotich of Kenya will return to defend their crowns when the world's
richest ever marathon hits the road on January 18.
The African duo outlasted the field to take gold in the 2007 event but they
face a challenge of a different kind when they join the rest of the
multi-national field at the start at Zabeel Park. For not only will the
route be slightly different from last year's 42.2km track, the field will
be the strongest ever seen in Dubai with winners' cheques of $250,000
waiting at the finish line for both the men and women's event.
"With a prize-fund of $1 million and a further $1 million cheque on the
line for a new world record, the 2008 Standard Chartered Marathon will be
the richest race in marathon history," said the event's General
Co-ordinator Ahmed Al Kamali. "Last year, Willy and Askale were by far the
best on the day and we are delighted to welcome our champions back for 2008
but they will have to be at their absolute best if they are to successfully
defend their titles."
Earlier this year, Rotich led home a pack of top Kenyan distance runners to
take the title in 2h:09m:53s at an average speed of 19.5kmh. It was only
the second time in the eight-year history of the event that an athlete has
broken the 2h:10m barrier, although Rotich was still 20 seconds outside the
He might have gone faster, but he played a waiting game, duelling with
outgoing champion Joseph Ngeny until 38km before breaking away. But
although Rotich missed out on a Dubai record there was no such heartbreak
for Askale with the 22 year-old destroying Albina Ivanova's five-year old
Dubai women's best by more than six minutes.
Making it all the more astonishing was that Askale ran almost the entire
race from the front beating the personal best she set in Milan in October
2006 by 38 seconds in the process. Averaging 17.2kmh, Askale won in
Both runners return to a new-look marathon. Held under the patronage of HH
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of
the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports
Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon offers a total prize-fund of
$1 million as well as an additional bonus of $1 million for a new world
record, courtesy of Dubai Holding.
And Rotich has hinted at what may lie ahead as the clock counts down to the
richest payday in marathon history. Following his victory, the Kenyan
offered a tantalising assessment of what might be achieved in Dubai. "I
think with the right people and good pacing, someone could do 2:05 here,"
he said after receiving his winner's medal from HH Sheikh Ahmed bin
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
There are few more "right people" than current world record holder Haile
Gebrselassie who took 29 seconds off the previous world best when he set
his new mark of 2:04:26 in Berlin two months ago and who is the red hot
favourite to win in Dubai.
"Our field is shaping up nicely with a strong group of elite runners
showing their commitment to Dubai," added Al Kamali. "However, it's not
just about the big names and we are still welcoming amateurs for the
marathon, the 10km and the 4km Fun Run who can register online at
www.dubaimarathon.org or at any branch of Fitness First.