DUBAI: Former winner and unofficial junior world record holder Tsegaye Mekonnen will return to the scene of his greatest triumph when he lines up at the start of the 2023 Dubai Marathon on Feb. 12.
On his official marathon debut nine years ago, Mekonnen clinched first place as he clocked the fastest time by an 18-year-old runner in two hours, four minutes and 32 seconds, nine seconds shy of the course record and 69 seconds off the world record — a time he was on course to beat at the half-way split.
Twelve months earlier, the young Ethiopian had taken part in Dubai as a pacemaker so the whirlwind start to his marathon career was as unexpected as it was explosive. Two years later he was back running over the streets he described as “life-changing”, finishing third in the 2016 Dubai Marathon.
Still the youngest winner in the history of the Middle East’s oldest Marathon, Mekonnen has an impressive CV as a young runner with his 2014 Dubai victory being the third fastest time in history by an athlete making his full marathon debut.
Held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the 2023 Dubai Marathon will see the World Athletics Gold Label race finally return to the sporting calendar after a three-year absence.
By his own admission, victory in Dubai was a life-changing experience for the now 27-year-old. “Winning in Dubai meant I was able to buy a house in Addis Ababa and I bought a car to be able to go to training,” he said. “I was also able to stop school and concentrate fully on running. It is definitely a completely different life for me now.”
Since that mercurial debut, Mekonnen scored a fifth-place finish at the 2014 London Marathon (two hours, eight minutes and six seconds), won the 2017 Hamburg Marathon (two hours, seven minutes and 26 seconds) and finished runner-up in the 2018 Shanghai International Marathon (two hours, nine minutes and 18 seconds).
Over the past few years, he has had to deal with injury as well as a lack of race opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the runner will return to Dubai eager to rekindle old memories on the flat and fast course that changed his life and had him dreaming of a future world record.