Benita Adesuyan tracks down marathon man Kenenisa Bekele to find out about his training regime, which he hopes will see him break a world record at this month’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
One of the most accomplished long-distance runners in history will have his eye on the prize when he takes part in this year’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon alongside thousands of amateur and professional runners. Ethiopian runner Kenenisa Bekele is the current world record holder for the 5,000-metre indoor and outdoor events, the 18-time World Champion and three-time Olympic Champion. With a bulging trophy cabinet and a humble spirit, the runner who made his name on the track is now furthering his career on the road, hoping for big things on Friday January 23.
The organisers are thrilled to have the champion associated with the race and are hoping his presence will inspire many of the amateur runners tackling the 42.195km route. Speaking at a press conference, Peter Connerton, event director for the marathon, said, ‘We had Haile Gebrselassie for three years and that really put Dubai on the athletics map for years, and people realised that there was a chance for fast times here and the possibility of world records, and to have Kenenisa here at this stage, after such a fantastic career on the track, is an honour.’
The 32-year-old runner made an impressive marathon debut in Paris in April last year, breaking the course record with a time of two hours, five minutes and four seconds. As we chat during his pre-event press conference, it becomes clear that he intends to go faster. ‘My motivation is always to improve,’ Bekele says. ‘It’s difficult to say that I’ll do this or do that. I just have to be fit enough and work hard for it and then after we’ll see the result.’ Bekele’s training for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is in full swing and he’s feeling confident. ‘I’m currently training in Ethiopia, my home country, and it’s going well. At the moment I am running every day, twice a day, across different kinds of terrain – on track, on road, in the gym, sometimes in the forest.’
Despite being one of the world’s top athletes, his achievements have not gone to his head. He still lives in his home country and trains with his brother Tariku in the hills outside of Addis Ababa. ‘Ethiopia is a very big country so there are many parts that I like to train in, sometimes in the city or in the countryside. At the moment I’m running 20km to 30km a day.’
The warm Dubai climate won’t get in the athlete’s way either, as he says that he has been amending his training to prepare for exactly this, and it hasn’t been a problem for him. ‘Of course during the Dubai Marathon the weather will be a little warmer than in Addis Ababa, but I am finding some different places that have a similar climate to Dubai to train in. We have all kinds of different weather in Ethiopia. We have a desert, which is just a 50km to 60km drive outside of Addis Ababa.’
While the Dubai Marathon is by no means the end of the road for Bekele, he’s ruling out returning to the track. There’s a big difference between 5,000 metres and marathon distances, he says. ‘I don’t think I’m going back to 5,000 metres after this. I think I’ll focus more on the road and longer distances.’
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon takes place January 23. For more information and to register to take part, visit www.dubaimarathon.org.