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Wednesday, 27 December 2017 19:19

The 2018 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (January 26, 2018): the RunBlogRun Interview with Peter Connerton, Race Director of the Dubai Marathon

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RunBlogRun opines: The 2018 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will be held on January 26, 2018. The fields are always amazing, and the race continues to grow and thrive. Here are six questions that we asked Dubai's management team, Peter Connerton, Dubai Marathon's and their Media Director, Alan Ewens. We are excited to see the field and the race that the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon plans for 2018! Don't miss it!

Dubai Marathon: In the late 1990s, after an initial staging of a Dubai Marathon, the current race director Peter Connerton was approached to raise funding for the marathon, on a contract basis. Shortly after the event he was asked to set up a Dubai Marathon office under a new company.

"I was asked 'Can you save it?" says Connerton. "I was certainly tempted as it was a challenge and I knew where it could go."

Connerton took the reins and under his guidance the event has grown to become the biggest mass participation event in the Middle East. "A lot of people with sporting backgrounds couldn't necessarily run anything," he adds. "I had a business background and a love of sport, and I decided to run the event like a business. Which is what we do."

One of the first major decisions he made was to change the date of the race from November to January, "because the weather in November was unpredictable", and the route was changed to begin outside the Al Wasl club. Since then, Dubai has grown massively - indeed the rate of development in the city means the route has changed every year since 2000.

The first Dubai Marathon under the direction of Pace Events was staged in 2000 and has since grown into the biggest running event in the region with 10km and 4km categories as well as the traditional Marathon distance.

RunBlogRun, #2: Why do elite runners come to Dubai Marathon? How do you get the top men and women to run in Dubai without the appearance fees of other marathons?

Dubai Marathon: When Haile Gebrselassie ran in Dubai for the first time in 2008 (the first of three consecutive Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon wins for the Ethiopian legend), it took the race to a new audience. This came around thanks to the prize-money initiative of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who introduced a prize-fund of US$1 million, while a bonus of US$1 million was also on offer at the time for a new world record.

Not only were running fans keen to find out more about the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, other elite athletes sat up and took notice of the fast times coming out of the UAE. Since then we have welcomed many of the best established runners such as Haile, Kenenisa Bekele and Martin Lel, while runners like Lelisa Desisa and Ayele Abshero announced themselves on the world stage with fast times in Dubai.

The elites know that they will have an excellent chance of posting a fast time - maybe even a PB - as the course is flat and fast, while the weather is benign. They also know that they will be exceptionally well looked after as the Dubai Marathon prides itself on offering the elites world-class hotel accommodation, professional race infrastructure and the richest prize-fund in the sport.

RunBlogRun, #3: The depth in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is pretty amazing, tell us about that...

Dubai Marathon: This is an area the event is particularly proud of. The race times we have experienced in Dubai over the past decade have included some notable firsts that could only have been achieved with a high quality field rather than being dependent on one world-record chasing athlete.

In 2012, for example, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon set a number of notable firsts. It was the first Marathon to have four athletes finish in under 2:05, while the top 17 broke 2:10 - again a world marathon first. A year later, the event went a step further with the top five men all coming home in less than 2:05, which is again a world first in the sport.

The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon was also the first Marathon in the world to have ten men break 2:05 in the history of the race.

The women's race has also enjoyed some notable firsts thanks to the strength in depth. In 2012, Dubai became the first city to have three women break 2:20 in the same race.

RunBlogRun, #4: Why should citizen runners come to Dubai to run the marathon?

Dubai Marathon: If you're looking to run a world-class marathon at the start of the year, there are few better places than Dubai. Aside from the wonderful weather in January in this part of the world and the chance to run a PB on one of the fastest and flattest routes around, Dubai also offers a wonderful five-star location with so much to do away from the running route.

Visitors from overseas can enjoy the golden beaches, superb shopping and dining outlets, incredible sporting events in the Dubai winter and discover just why Dubai is one of the world's premier holiday destinations.

We are also delighted to hear that for the second year in succession, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon has been awarded a five-star rating in the Dubai Sports Council Sports Events Ranking System for 2016-2017 - one of just four annual sporting events to receive the honor.

RunBlogRun, #5: Tell us about the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon course...

Dubai Marathon: The course has the start and finish line on the same stretch of road with the runners heading out and back along Dubai's famous Beach Road. Among the classic landmarks that the runners will pass is the famous Burj Al Arab, the seven-star hotel that sits on a peninsula just off the shore near the start line. Dotted along the route, traditional mosques rub shoulders with modern hotels and shopping malls, while the route also takes the athletes past the entrance to the Palm Island. It's a flat and fast course with few turns and a starting temperature of around 10 degrees.

RunBlogRun, #6: What was your favorite Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon race?

Dubai Marathon: We have been lucky that the event had has so many memorable moments - from the stats we mentioned earlier in 2012 and 2013 to a new course record set just last year by Tamirat Tola.

In 2008, when Haile Gebrselassie made his debut he was roared on by a huge crowd and just missed out on the world record by 27 seconds. With a US$1 million bonus for a new world record, those were an expensive 27 seconds!

But probably the most abiding memory is of the finishing home straight in 2013 when five men fought it out to the tape. The image of five world-class athletes battling it out for record prize-money and all finishing the race in less than 2:05 is a moment in history in marathon running - the fact that it happened at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is something we are proud of.

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