The Dubai Marathon is No Longer the World’s Richest Marathon

Finish Line
Written by Charlie

Dubai is known for having the biggest, best, richest, tallest, things in the world! Well, this year they will lose one of those titles as they no longer have the world’s richest marathon.

Dubai is known for many things and most of them start with words like “biggest”, “best”, “richest”, “tallest”, etc. If there is something that they can make bigger or better, they will likely go for it!

The Dubai Marathon Is No Longer the World’s Richest Marathon

For years, this has included their marathon prize purse. I first had been drawn to it as a race to run when I had heard about their $1 million bonus for setting the world record there (the world record has never been set there though this bonus did help lower the course record significantly).

Of course, I wasn’t drawn to it because I thought I would win! 🙂 Rather, it made me think that such a marathon would likely go all out to really make it be over the top. So, I went and ran it in 2013 – and then went back to run it again in 2014 (why I went back again I’ll talk about below).

Big Marathon Money Meant Top Runners

In addition to this $1 million bonus, the Dubai Marathon has also offered the world’s richest purse for a marathon with a million dollars up for grabs for the podium winners. According to Let’s Run, this helped Dubai to claim 3 of the 4 marathons where 4 men broke 2:05. This prize purse helped give Dubai another area where they had the title for the “richest” of something.

Dubai Not the World’s Richest Marathon – That Title Goes to Boston

But, that is no longer true! According to the same Let’s Run article, that prize purse has been cut quite dramatically for this year’s running of the Dubai Marathon (which takes place this Friday). Instead, the top prize will be just $100,000 instead of the usual $200,000. This means that the Boston Marathon with its $150,000 first place prize will now be the richest set marathon in the world, in terms of the prize purse (not for appearance fees and bonuses). By the way, that just feels right to have the iconic Boston Marathon also be the world’s richest marathon, in terms of the prize purse!

Is the Dubai Marathon Still a Top Marathon?

Having run the Dubai Marathon twice, I feel somewhat familiar with this race. I have to say, having heard about the money that Dubai was dumping into their marathon, I had thought the marathon would be as over-the-top in execution and everything else like they are with other things. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

My Disappointment with the Dubai Marathon

I understand that this is a 26.2 mile event that takes place in the desert. Even in January, that means there is going to be some heat (and even humidity). I probably would not have gone outside to watch it! That must have been the same feeling other people had because their was little to no crowd support along the course.

Sure, some of the sights were cool (running past things like the Burj Al-Arab) but it was a bit disappointing to not have the crowd support I would have anticipated for an event that had such world-class runners participating.

Another disappointing thing was that the “expo” really wasn’t. I mean, it was basically just a packet pickup with no vendors out with running gear, no workshops, no seminars – nothing at all.

Finally, I understand that the marathon is held on their religious day (Friday) but having the metro shutdown at their usual Friday cut-off was a bit of surprise. It shutdown before many people had finished and meant that people could not take advantage of the wonderful and nearby metro but would instead need to use taxis to get back to hotels. Imagine all of those runners and families trying to find taxis at the end!

So, why did I go back for a second time? To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with my running of the 2013 edition. I had an injury that popped up in the last half and it caused me to finish with a really disappointing time. So, I planned to go back for the 2014 race as a way of getting a bit of redemption. I actually had a really great training schedule for this one and worked with a coach to go sub 3:20. Unfortunately, I got sick around mile 18 that year and finished well off from my goal.

Due to the humidity and overall lack of crowd support, I don’t plan on going back again. With the sharp cut to the prize purse, my guess is that many world-class runners will not return as well.

This may be especially true now that neighboring Abu Dhabi has their own marathon taking place a month earlier and with identical prize money…

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.