Jacob Kiplimo wins the 2022 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon (© Alberto Mazzucchelli / Organisers)
Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo and Ethiopia’s Girmawit Gebrzihair ran course records to win the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on Saturday (19), clocking 57:56 and 1:04:14 respectively during another fast edition of the World Athletics Elite Label road race.
Kiplimo had gone into the race targeting his own world record of 57:31, which he set in Lisbon in November. The 21-year-old world half marathon champion, who finished third in the 10,000m and fifth in the 5000m at the Tokyo Olympics last year, was on blistering pace for much of the race, recording a split of 13:23 for 5km and then going through 10km in 26:56 – on target for a sub-57:00 half marathon. By that point he was 16 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Rodgers Kwemoi, with a group including Kenneth Kiprop Renju, Alexander Mutiso, Daniel Kibet, Amedework Walelegn, Abel Kipchumba, Seifu Tura and Kennedy Kimutai another six seconds back.
Kiplimo’s pace dropped slightly over the next 5km but he still passed 15km in 40:43, a time which beats the world 15km best of 41:05 which had been set by his compatriot Joshua Cheptegei in Nijmegen in 2018. Although the world half marathon record seemed to be moving out of reach, Kiplimo went through the 20km mark in 54:53, 33 seconds ahead of Kwemoi, before crossing the finish line in 57:56 to win by 34 seconds.
The fifth-fastest half marathon in history, it is the third occasion that Kiplimo has broken 58 minutes for the distance, a time that only three other athletes – Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie, Rhonex Kipruto and Mutiso – have ever achieved.
The top six athletes all beat the previous course record of 58:42, which had been set by Bedan Karoki in 2018 and then matched by Stephen Kiprop in 2019. Kenya’s world 10,000m fourth-place finisher Kwemoi was second in 58:30, which moves him to 11th on the world all-time list, while his compatriot Renju was third in 58:35.
Ethiopia’s Tura was one second back in fourth, with his compatriot Walelegn fifth in 58:40 and Kenya’s Kibet sixth in 58:45. Mutiso and Kipchumba also dipped under 60 minutes, running 58:48 and 59:47 respectively.
Gebrzihair wins on debut
Gebrzihair made a successful start to her half marathon career in the women's race, her course record of 1:04:14 being the second-fastest ever women’s debut for the distance behind Letesenbet Gidey’s world record of 1:02:52 run in Valencia in October.
The performance improves on the 1:04:31 course record – then a world record – set by Ababel Yeshaneh the last time the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon was held in 2020.
The 20-year-old Gebrzihair, who claimed world U20 5000m bronze in 2018 and recently finished second in the Great Ethiopian Run 10km, was joined by athletes including Kenya’s two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri and Sheila Chepkirui as well as Ethiopia’s Bosena Mulate in an eight-strong group which went through 5km in 15:12. That pack was down to five athletes by the 10km point, which Gebrzihair, Obiri, Mulate, Chepkirui and Kenya’s Judith Jeptum passed in 30:28.
Obiri, Gebrzihair and Chepkirui then broke away and went through 15km together in 45:50, before Chepkirui was dropped and the leaders clocked 1:01:04 through 20km. Gebrzihair kicked over the closing stages to secure success on her debut, eventually winning by eight seconds in 1:04:14 to Obiri’s 1:04:22. Chepkirui was third in 1:04:36 and the top three in Ras Al Khaimah now respectively sit fourth, fifth and seventh on the world all-time list.
Jeptum finished fourth in 1:05:28 and Mulate fifth in 1:05:46. In sixth, Britain’s Eilish McColgan ran 1:06:26 to break Paula Radcliffe's national record of 1:06:47, which had stood since 2001.
Kenya’s Daisy Cherotich, Bahrain’s Eunice Chebichii Chumba and Kenya's Pauline Esikon were all also under 68 minutes, with respective times of 1:06:33, 1:07:22 and 1:07:50. Yeshaneh was also in action but after passing 15km in 46:08, the former world record-holder did not finish the race.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics