Ethiopia’s Tigist Ketema runs fastest debut in history at Dubai Marathon

The 25-year-old virtual unknown ran 2:16:07, for eighth fastest all-time, in Adidas' Adios Pro Evo 1 super shoe

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Everything You Need To Know

  • Ketema had never run more than a 10K race before her marathon debut
  • The 25-year-old was a virtually unknown middle distance runner
  • Ketema ran the first half in 1:08:08
  • She trains with Tigst Assefa, the world record holder
  • She is now the youngest runner in the top 10 all-time marathon results
  • She was wearing the controversial new one-use Adidas super shoe
  • Ketema hopes to crack the Ethiopian Olympic squad with this performance

There may be a new up-and-coming marathon star, as Ethiopian runner Tigist Ketema made history today at the Dubai Marathon. 

Ketema, 25, had a brief middle-distance runner before her debut marathon in Dubai on Sunday morning. She shattered the women’s world record for the fastest marathon debut with an impressive time of 2:16:07, surpassing Letesenbet Gidey’s mark from Valencia in 2022.

Ethiopia’s Tigist Ketema runs fastest debut in history at Dubai Marathon 1
Credit: Dubai Marathon

The performance also places her as the eighth fastest woman in marathon history.

Ketema not only took the win in Dubai, alongside the record for fastest debut marathon, but also a healthy prize of $80,000 USD.

Ketema’s background as an 800m specialist and bronze medalist at the World Under-20 Championships in 2016 may have hinted at her success as a middle-distance runner, but her transition to the marathon was unexpected. 

Ketema says she was not satisfied with her results in the 800m and 1,500m events and, therefore, decided to tackle the marathon under the guidance of her coach, Gemedu Dedefo.

Updated All-Time Marathon List

12:11:53Tigst ASSEFA03 DEC 1996ETHETH1Berlin (GER)24 SEP 2023
22:13:44Sifan HASSAN01 JAN 1993NEDNED1Chicago, IL (USA)08 OCT 2023
32:14:04Brigid KOSGEI20 FEB 1994KENKEN1Chicago, IL (USA)13 OCT 2019
42:14:18Ruth CHEPNGETICH08 AUG 1994KENKEN1Chicago, IL (USA)09 OCT 2022
52:14:58Amane Beriso SHANKULE13 OCT 1991ETHETH1Valencia (ESP)04 DEC 2022
62:15:25Paula RADCLIFFE17 DEC 1973GBRGBR1London (GBR)13 APR 2003
72:15:51Worknesh DEGEFA28 OCT 1990ETHETH1Valencia (ESP)03 DEC 2023
82:16:07Tigist KETEMA15 SEP 1998ETH
92:16:09Almaz AYANA21 NOV 1991ETHETH2Valencia (ESP)03 DEC 2023
102:16:28Rosemary WANJIRU09 DEC 1994KENKEN1Tokyo (JPN)05 MAR 2023
Table: World Athletics/Marathon Handbook

Expressing her surprise at the outcome of today’s race, Ketema told Athletics Weekly, “I didn’t expect to win my first marathon. I only moved to the marathon because I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted at 800m and 1500m.” 

Her decision to switch distances proved to be a game-changer, showcasing her newfound strength and resilience over the marathon.

Ketema’s victory was not only a record-breaking run but also an impressive one, considering the significant margin by which she secured her first victory. 

With a decisive move in the final 5K, Ketema left her competitors trailing behind, ultimately beating second-placed compatriot Ruti Aga by over two minutes. 

The Ethiopian trio of Ketema, Aga, and defending champion Dera Dida claimed the top three spots, emphasizing that Ethiopia remains one of the dominant forces in the marathon.

Acknowledging her coach’s role in her transformation, Ketema credits Gemedu Dedefo for guiding her from a middle-distance runner to a marathoner in just a year of specific marathon training

Dedefo, who also coaches the current world record-holder, Tigist Assefa, was pleased with Ketema’s performance, noting that her training indicated a potential for even faster times.

Dedefo and the first name Tigist aren’t the only things that Ketema and Assefa have in common.

adidas evo

They both have run their record-breaking marathon in the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1.

The single-use super shoe has once again made it clear that it is one of the fastest marathon shoes created. The battle of the super shoes from last year seems ongoing between Nike and Adidas, with each brand making headlines one after the other.

With the Dubai Marathon having a long-time relationship with Adidas, there were certainly plenty of athletes seen in its gear, including third-place runner and 2023 Dubai Marathon winner Dera Dida, who was wearing Adidas Adios Pro.

Curiously, it appears Ketema was the only athlete in the women’s lead pack wearing the Evo 1.

Ketema, although young in the world of marathoning, has her sights set on representing Ethiopia at the Olympic Games later this year. With a historic debut marathon, she should certainly be in contention.

“I will be very glad to run in the Olympics,” Ketema said, “but we will wait for God’s will.”

2024 Dubai Marathon Women’s Race Results

1 Tigist Ketema (ETH) 2:16:07
2 Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:18:09
3 Dera Dida (ETH) 2:19:29
4 Melat Kejeta (GER) 2:21:47
5 Amid Fozya Jemal (ETH) 2:21:53
6 Shitaye Eshete (BRN) 2:21:55
7 Atelel Anmut (ETH) 2:22:23
8 Betelihem Afenigus (ETH) 2:25:57
9 Emebet Niguse (ETH) 2:27:15
10 Nurit Shimels (ETH) 2:28:28

Teenager and Former Javelin Thrower Wins the Men’s Marathon in Dubai

In the men’s race, it was another podium sweep by Ethiopian runners.

At just 19 years old, Addisu Gobena was also making his marathon debut, claiming victory against a decorated field in 2:05:01.

Ethiopia’s Tigist Ketema runs fastest debut in history at Dubai Marathon 2
Photo Credit: Kamram Jebreili

Compatriots Lemi Dumecha and Dejen Megersa would round out the podium in 2:05:20 and 2:05:42, respectively.

Gobena has a unique background, coming to the marathon after being a javelin thrower. It was his aunt, Ruti Aga, who placed second in the women’s race today, who suggested he try the marathon.

“I think I made the right decision,” he said after the race.

Gobena is currently slated to run a spring marathon in April, likely hoping for a faster time to be in contention to make the Ethiopian team for the Paris Olympics.

2024 Dubai Marathon Men’s Race Results

1 Addisu Gobena (ETH) 2:05:01
2 Lemi Dumecha (ETH) 2:05:20
3 Dejane Megersa (ETH) 2:05:42
4 Abdi Fufa (ETH) 2:06:23
5 Samuel Fitwi (GER) 2:06:27
6 Antenayeh Dagnachew (ETH) 2:06:55
7 Douglas Chebii (KEN) 2:08:15
8 Tesfaye Lencho Anbesa (ETH) 2:08:25
9 Bayelign Teshager (ETH) 2:08:56
10 Abebaw Muniye (ETH) 2:09:09

The Dubai Marathon has undoubtedly set the tone for the 2024 marathon season, promising incredible competitions and fast times coming up.

Rewatch The Complete 2024 Dubai Marathon:

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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