With the 8th edition of the RAK Half Marathon less than 24 hours away, the elite athletes recently delivered to Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE for Friday morning’s race, looked remarkably calm at Thursday’s pre-race press conference, no doubt retaining their energies for the inevitable exertions of the following morning.
The elite of course, will see little of the near 3,000 “also-rans” behind them comprising some 93 nationalities, most in the half marathon as individuals starting at 7am, but over 650 participating in the RAK Free Trade Zone Team Relay Challenge which gets underway at 7.15am. The latter splits the race in to four manageable slices, with each runner having to cover approximately 5km, or about 3 miles. Encouraging participation and team spirit, the relay has grown year on year and it’s amongst the relay runners that the biggest smiles at the finish will be seen.
The 7am start time designed to avoid the rising mid-morning temperatures - it’s frequently in the mid-20’s Centigrade (mid/high 70s Fahrenheit) long before midday - should also assist in avoiding the regular winds that gust down from the Hajar Mountains to the north-east of the Emirate’s capital. Although this has been a relatively wet year for RAK so far, dry and still conditions are anticipated and the elite athletes know that this is a golden chance to make their mark after months of training hibernation since the autumn road racing season.
Despite some high-profile withdrawals in recent days, the elite fields still look astonishingly strong. The two Kenyan Bernards, Koech and Kipyego, can each boast a best of 59:10 making them joint quickest, although Bernard’s amazing 58:41 on the downhill San Diego course last June, put him over 90 seconds ahead of a successful Berlin bound Eliud Kipchoge. Bernard Kipyego for his part is a wonderfully versatile runner, having won world medals on track and country as well as having run 2:07 twice in 2013 among his three marathons in the year. As a member of the sub-27 minute club for a track 10,000m he will be hard to shake in a sprint too. Throw in Wilson Kiprop (best of 59:15), a half marathon specialist fresh from his 59:49 in Delhi last December, and Jacob Kendagor, Berlin Half winner last year in 59:36, and a Kenyan victory seems likely.
However, this would be rash for the challengingly-named Ethiopian pairing of Feyisa Lelisa and Lelisa Desisa are quite formidable. The former was fourth in RAK last year in 59:25 (5th in 2012) and with his sub 2:05 marathon strength, is sure to feature. Desisa won the Dubai and Boston marathons in 2013 and in fact makes a habit of winning - he has won four of his last five half marathons but, able to boast a half best of 59:30, has never run in RAK before. The unknown factor of course, is their young compatriot Ibrahim Jeilan, making his “fit” debut; he was injured when he ran a modest 64:37 in Lisbon last October. For the 2011 world 10,000m champion, a personal best is all but guaranteed - but by how much?
Amongst the women, while Olympic Marathon Champion Tiki Gelana is out injured, the Kenyan Jeptoo’s are here and both Priscah (2nd in RAK 2013 in PB 66:11) and Rita (3rd in PB 66:27) know the course well enough now to attack it with confidence this year. Their astonishing consistency however, might not be enough to hold back current world marathon No.1 Mare Dibaba; unrelated to the Dibaba running sisters from her nation, she could still ensure the famous surname is to the fore as she continues her preparations for April’s Boston Marathon. After 2nd in RAK 2010 (PB 67:13) and 3rd in 2011 (68:57), Dibaba is unleashing pent up frustrations from being out with illness for all of 2013 and is keen to complete the set of top three positions here.
MEN - Dennis Kimetto (twisted ankle), Stanley Biwott (“leg pain”), Ayele Abshero (stomach problem). WOMEN - Linet Masai (unfit).
RAK Half Marathon 2014 - Elite Fields
(Name, Nation, Personal Best - downhill/record legal):
|2||Bernard Koech (KEN)||58:41/59:10|
|4||Micah Kogo (KEN)||59:07/60:17|
|5||Bernard Kipyego (KEN)||59:10|
|7||Wilson Kiprop (KEN)||59:15|
|8||Feyisa Lelisa (ETH)||59:22|
|9||Lelisa Desisa (ETH)||59:30|
|10||Jacob Kendagor (KEN)||59:36|
|12||Paul Lonyangata (KEN)||59:53|
|13||Nguse Amlosom (ERI)||60:46|
|14||Ibrahim Jeilan (ETH)||64:37|
|52||Priscah Jeptoo (KEN)||65:45/66:11|
|53||Rita Jeptoo (KEN)||66:27|
|54||Mare Dibaba (ETH)||67:13|
|55||Flomena Cheyech (KEN)||67:39|
|56||Helah Kiprop (KEN)||67:39|
|57||Aberu Kebede (ETH)||67:39|
|58||Worknesh Degefa (ETH)||67:49|
|59||Caroline Kilel (KEN)||68:16|
|60||Feyse Tadese (ETH)||68:35|
|61||Guteni Shone (ETH)||68:59|