When the 2017 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon takes to the city streets on Friday (January 20), more than 200,000 runners will have taken part in the annual IAAF Gold Label event since its debut in 2000.
It’s an indication of how far both the event and the city of Dubai has developed since the turn of the 21st century when just 249 athletes took part in the first Marathon and 1,046 and 523 runners entered the 10km Road Race and the Fun Run (at the time a 3km race) respectively.
This weekend, more than 30,000 runners are expected to take part in the three races staged during the Middle East’s biggest mass participation event.
And fittingly it will be Ethiopian running legend Kenenisa Bekele – a three-time Olympic gold medallist and currently the second fastest athlete in Marathon history – who will lead the Marathon masses across the start line at 6.30am before the 10km starts at 9am and the 4km Fun Run sets off at 11am.
“Naturally we are delighted to have Kenenisa with us for his second appearance in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “It’s also appropriate a runner of his international standing is at the front of the pack as we break through the 200,000 mark.”
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will see Bekele start as favourite following his stunning run in Berlin in September 2016.
His winning time of 2h:03m:03s was just six seconds outside Dennis Kimetto’s world best and underlined his growing status in the marathon ranks following a stellar track career that accrued 16 world titles and world records at both 5,000m and 10,000m.
The 34 year-old’s time in Berlin was two minutes faster than he had previously achieved – and an Ethiopian record – but he knows he won’t have it all his own way on a course that has produced more than its fair share of surprise winners, including 21 year-old Tsegaye Mekonnen who won the 2014 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon running faster than any junior under-20 had ever done before and who is back for another tilt at the title.
In the women’s race, Shure Demise heads the field with a personal best of 2:20:59 set in Dubai in 2015. But with fellow Ethiopians Meselech Melkamu, Tadelech Bekele and Arage Yebrgual boasting a wealth of experience the race for the $200,000 first prize is wide open.
With a mass turnout, over 1,500 volunteers, the support of the city of Dubai and global TV coverage, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon continues to make massive strides on the international sporting scene, a fact recently recognised by the Dubai Sports Council.
“We were delighted and honoured to see the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon awarded a five-star rating by the Dubai Sports Council – one of just four sporting events in the UAE to achieve this rating,” said Sarmad Lone, Standard Chartered Bank’s Head of Banking for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.
Outlining Standard Chartered’s commitment to the event, he added: “UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has declared 2017 the Year of Giving and, embracing this great concept and in the true spirit of being Here for good, Standard Chartered UAE has brought community engagement to the next level.
“This year, we will be raising funds for kids at the Rashid Paediatric Centre, a non-profit organisation that provides education and therapy to children with special needs, with unique programmes designed to meet each child’s needs.”
Like many Dubai corporates and businesses – including Standard Chartered – Dubai Holding will once again have a significant presence in the mass field.
“For the 11th year running, Dubai Holding has been a proud supporter of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, assembling the largest corporate contingent year on year,” said Cedric Betis, Chairman of Dubai Holding Wellness Committee.
“This year is particularly significant for us as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Dubai Holding’s Corporate Wellness Programme.
“Today we are extremely proud to have contributed to a healthier, happier and more active nation, in line with the directives of the leadership of Dubai and the UAE.”
Adidas, one of the world’s biggest global brands and the Official Outfitter for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, is also back on the start line for the seventh consecutive year.
“Whether it is revolutionising the running industry with Boost or creating sustainable shoes made from ocean waste materials, at adidas we constantly strive to be better – from the products we design to the way we engage with our athletes and consumers,” said Kerim Ozbakirci, Senior Marketing Director, adidas Emerging Markets.
“That is why we are proud to be a partner of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon for the seventh consecutive year. This flagship event is testament to Dubai’s commitment to health and fitness. We believe sport has the power to change lives and these individuals – our athletes, our consumers, our partners – are at the heart of everything that we do.”
Event General Co-ordinator, President of the UAE Athletics Federation and IAAF Council Member Ahmed Al Kamali said the event had reached its milestones thanks to the co-operation of many government bodies.
“To have had more than 200,000 people run the event demonstrates the wonderful co-operation we have with organisations such as the RTA and Dubai Police,” he said. “It is without doubt a team effort that helps take Dubai to a live global TV audience of over 150 million viewers.”
As well as Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Sport 360, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.
Final last-minute entries for the Marathon, the 10km and the 4km can be made in person at the Turf Suite (4th Floor) at Meydan on Thursday (January 19) between 10am and 5pm only.