Haile Gebrselassie expected to tower over his opponents in Dubai

Dubai, UAE – (January 5, 2010) – In the wake of Monday’s opening of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, rising more than 800 metres over the desert floor, the emirate of Dubai awaits the arrival of Haile Gebrselassie, fastest man in the world at the marathon.

Inside a decade, the upcoming Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (22 January) has gone from a backwater event to become one of the world’s fastest races, and the World marathon record holder has already competed and won here twice.

“Not only has he given us two great races,” said race director Peter Connerton, “the publicity has helped our development. Our participation has doubled since his first run two years ago. I never used to see people running in the street, now I see folks training everywhere.”

“We’re delighted that he’s coming back again, and hopefully it’ll be third time lucky. He went too fast in the first half two years ago, and ran the second fastest in history at the time (2:04:53), and last year the bad weather ruined his (World) record attempt. But he still ran the eight fastest marathon (2:05:29).”

Gebrselassie’s principal opponents this year, Sammy Korir (2:04:56), Tesfaye Tola (2:06:57) and Joshua Chelanga (2:07:05) will hardly be heartened that, despite approaching his 37th birthday (18 April), his speed does not appear to be diminishing. Evidence of which was victory in the New Year’s 8k Silvesterlauf in Trier, Germany, in 22:23 – see ‘Related Content’ under main photo for race report

If the men’s race turns out to be a procession, headed by Gebrselassie again attacking his 2:03:59 World record, the women’s event threatens to be highly competitive. It features winners from the last three years, Bezunesh Bekele (2:23:09), Berhane Adere (2:20:42), and Askale Magarska (2:21:31, all of Ethiopia).

Bekele disposed of Adere in short order in last year’s race (2:24:02 to 2:27:47), and the 26-year-old has asked for a pace to deliver her to a sub-2.20 clocking, which if successful would see her replace the veteran Adere as national record holder.

With last year’s third placer Helena Kirop of Kenya, and two more Ethiopians, Genet Getaneh and Eyerusalem Kuma, all of whom beat Adere in 2009, this will be the race to rank alongside the record chase.