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Ayele Abshero broke the Dubai Marathon course record in his marathon debut Friday, finishing in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 23 seconds giving Ethiopia a morale-boosting victory over rival Kenya in an Olympic year. Ayele Abshero shaved 30 seconds off the course record set by Haile Gebrselassie in 2008.
The 21-year-old Ayele moved up to the full marathon distance after breaking the hour mark in the half marathon last year in the Netherlands. He moved to the front of a pack at 21.1 miles, then pulled away from countryman Dino Sefir Kemal at 24.2 miles. Kemal was second, 27 seconds back. Markos Geneti was third, completing an Ethiopian sweep.
“I prepared very well for this marathon. Even though this is my first marathon, I was confident I would perform well,” Ayele said. “By winning, I’m very happy. For the next marathon, this win will be a big motivation … If I can go to the Olympics, I will try and do something special.”
Ayele was among a group of 30 who jumped out to the front early in the $1 million marathon that started in the shadows of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The mostly flat route took runners along the Persian Gulf coast where the lead back was reduced to nine and then four before finishing at the Burj Khalifa.
“I knew it would be a very hard race and very tactical race,” Ayele said. “At 38 kilometers (23.6 miles), there were four runners and at 42 kilometers (26.1 miles), I started to push. The other guys were dropping back and it was at that moment I knew I would win the race.”
Ayele’s victory was unexpected not only because of his inexperience but because of the number of top Kenyans entered in the race. Five-time major winner Martin Lel and 2011 champion David Barmasai couldn’t keep pace and dropped out of contention with about 6 miles to go.