Lucky Number 13
This is my ‘hometown race’ – I grew up about an hour away in another emirate – and one that means the most to me. It’s probably the only marathon that I’ll really push myself in, as it’s pan flat and the temperature at this time of year, around 20 degrees, suits me perfectly. So you can understand why I was devastated at having to miss last year’s race because of injury. Following another injury over the summer, I was determined to stay fit so I avoided any speedwork apart from the occasional parkrun, hence my absence from Wednesday interval sessions.
The couple of times I ran this, the route started and finished at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Alas, that novelty is no more as the organizers have reverted to the old out and back route along the dead straight beach road because of the construction of a canal near the tower. This makes it extremely PB friendly and a possible world record breaker. In fact, it’s billed as the world’s richest marathon for the $200,000 winner’s cheque and $100,000 bonus for a world record. I’m sure it used to be $1m a few years ago but I guess not even Dubai is immune to the global downturn!
As you can see, it’s an extremely boring course with a grand total of four corners apart from a little kink in the road. The start and finish are on a side road very close to the Burj al Arab, an ultra-luxury hotel shaped like a sail, which sits out in the sea. I don’t really mind though; I prefer straight out and backs as it’s easy to put my head down and just get in the zone. Definitely better than five laps of the Town Moor!
All the pre-race hype was centered on Kenenisa Bekele, running in just his third marathon, heading one of the biggest elite fields in the race’s history. The course record of 2:03 was supposedly under threat but in the end, Bekele pulled out after 30km and the winner finished in a rather pedestrian (by Ethiopian standards) 2:05.
As for my race, I set off at a 3:23 pace (my PB) thinking that if I felt good after 32km, I would really go for it. Over the last year, I’ve had problems with my right hamstring tensing up at that point in the race. This time however, after taking two gels and plenty of water, I felt fantastic. Averaging 4:30/km for the last ten, I passed loads of people that had shot off way too fast at the start and ended up negative splitting for only the second time after VLM 2014, with 1:41 and 1:38 halves. A finish time of 3:20:06, oh but for those six seconds!! A PB, but more importantly, the best I’ve felt in the last ten kilometres of a marathon. Every time I run here, I end up peebee-ing, so despite the ridiculous entry fee, it’s totally worth it!
Sorry to disappoint Tom and anyone else expecting another tear-jerker. That will most certainly come soon enough…