By Moni Mathews  www.khaleejtimes.com

DUBAI – The event has come a long way from the early years when sponsorships and prize money were difficult to come by and the participation levels remained below the 2,000 mark.

But after 12 episodes, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (eighth year in running) — set for a nearly 15,000 mass start at 7am at The Pavilion on Friday — is placed to break records again.

The $1 million event is the single biggest sporting event in terms of hands-on participation and involvement by the residents inthe UAE.

There may not be streets lined up with people waving flags and passing on small packets of liquid refreshments to the runners like we see it happen elsewhere, but the sheer number of individuals and corporate bodies taking part for the various causes and initiatives, make the Dubai event what it is today.

Attracting the biggest names in the field, the Dubai Marathon is one of the best in the calendar as far as international participation and prize money are concerned.

In 2011 we saw surprise winners in the main event in the men’s and women’s sections.

As expected the stalwarts from east Africa were on the podium but it was a day for the lesser known runners from the same part of the world who went home richer.

The first placed runners in the main event get $250,000 each.

Both men and women enjoy equal status in the prize money distribution.

There are prizes for all the categories with dollars and dirhams being set aside for the 10km Open, the Marathon Push Chair Open and the Marathon for UAE Nationals.

One of the best parts of the event which starts and finishes at The Pavilion area near the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, is the 3km Fun Run.

Families, regular joggers, part and full time fitness freaks, and lots more — the list is endless.

The Marathon Village and the sports fest atmosphere are bound to make a day out to Downtown a worthwhile effort. The weather is a lot colder this time than in recent years, but this Friday can be a weekend that we will talk about, at least till January 2013.

It may be 10-15ºC out there with winds that tend to make your bones cry out for more warm clothing, but it’s not often when one can enjoy a winter Friday more, especially when a sports gathering of people from all walks of life gather at one single point. Come and enjoy the Dubai Marathon, it’s worth the effort even if you are not particpating in the show. –moni@khaleejtimes.com

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