Getaneh Molla of Ethiopia won the Dubai Marathon in 2:03:34 and took home the $100,000 first prize. While I do not personally know Mr. Molla, I take note that this is the second time he and I have raced together, and the second time he beat me and won lots of money. In February 2018, Mr. Molla and I both ran the Riyadh Half Marathon, where he took first place in 1:01:53, winning $267,000.

Six Degrees of Separation
Mr. Molla got me thinking: who else ran the Dubai Marathon with me that I know from other events? In addition to my wife Olya who runs marathons and ultras with me, I counted another twenty runners that I frequently encounter running various events in the region from 5km to 100km. This list is not all-inclusive and includes only a random sampling of some of our common running events I have run with the people I saw at Dubai Marathon.

Runners I saw at Dubai Marathon and have run other events with me
• Alan Wayne (3:55) ran the Kalba Kickr
• Matt Froment (3:55) finished UTMB by Oman in 34 hours. I was DNF!
• Aleksei Davydov (3:56) ran Erbil Marathon 2015
• Matt Rushton (4:12) ran the Bahrain Marathon 2017, where I tripped and fell at 13km
• David Thompson (4:26) ran Hajar, Mount Sana 60, and Night Rebel last year
• Harry Goodson-Wickes (4:33) ran Wadi Bih 2016 during the hurricane. We also did the Bahrain Half Ironman together – but that doesn’t really count as ‘fun’ or a ‘run’.
• Aleksei Kremlev (4:37) ran Moscow Marathon together and many, many others with me
• Sergei Petrov (4:53) ran Istanbul Marathon
• Louis Zsiv (4:55) ran UU Wadi Racer 2018
• Alexander Derevschikov (4:56) ran Abu Dhabi Marathon
• Anton Kreventsov (4:56) ran Hatta Hills Half Marathon
• Julie Johnstone (5:05) ran Big Stinker 2016 during the flood
• Peter Jelinek (5:25) ran UTX50
• My sister Carolyn (10km finisher in Dubai) ran Paris Marathon 2018 with me
• John Olomolehin ran Dubai Marathon 2016 and 2017 and Desert Road Run 10km.
• Some Guy from Riyadh Marathon 2017 handed out oranges at 32km and called me out but I don’t remember his name unfortunately
• Ella Valdez ran Hajar 100
• John Young the Wadi Bih organizer ran RAK Half Marathon last year
• Brendan Moloney taking photos at 20km – ran Tropic of Cancer Ultra in 2016
• Servatius Palmans ran Al Qudra Ultra

This common thread of runners highlights the beauty of the Dubai Marathon and demonstrates the depth of the UAE running community. There are so many running events available in the region, from roads to desert to mountains, with all imaginable distances that everyone can find an event that suits them.

Shout-out to inaugural Abu Dhabi Marathon
Most cities in the Middle East now host major marathons. For example, in December Abu Dhabi held its inaugural marathon on a beautiful course along the water. Yes, it was great seeing Steve Smith (Wadi Bih, Hajar, UTMB by Oman) cheering runners on at the halfway mark in Abu Dhabi!

You Can Run with Getaneh Molla and Me
The new Abu Dhabi Marathon and established Dubai Marathon attract runners with many different goals. Some runners are trying to finish their first marathon or get a qualifying time for Comrades or simply training for another event. On a personal level, no matter how much I train, there is no chance that I am gonna run as fast as Mr. Molla and win $367,000. Like most of you, I choose to maintain my amateur status and stick to running the Dubai Marathon for fun – whether it is for the camaraderie or thrill of finishing another marathon. Just look at the Dubai Marathon as a wonderful social event like a public picnic, but with less food and more sweat. ■

Written by: David O’Hara
Photos: David O’Hara and ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon

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this article was published in OutdoorUAE printed magazine issue #93 February – March 2019

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