Priscah Jeptoo winning at the 2014 RAK Half Marathon (© Victah Sailer / organisers)
Since its premiere in 2007, the RAK Half Marathon has attracted the best distance runners in the world. The 10th edition on 12 February will be no different.
Four of the elite men have run faster than 59 minutes, while the four fastest women have covered the 13.1-mile distance within 67 minutes.
World record-holder Zersenay Tadese leads the men’s field. The 33-year-old Eritrean is the most decorated half-marathon runner in history, having won five world titles over the distance. Although his world record of 58:23 was set six years ago, his 59:24 in Delhi last November showed he still ranks among the best in the world.
Bernard Koech is the third-fastest athlete of all time, although his PB of 58:41 was achieved on a slightly downhill course in San Diego. He finished fourth in Ras Al Khaimah in 2014, running 59:46.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges will come from 23-year-old Abraham Cheroben, who ran world-leading times in 2014 and 2015 with runs of 58:48 and 59:10 respectively.
Ethiopian Birhanu Legese may not be among the fastest six on paper, but he won a high-quality half marathon in Delhi last autumn in 59:20.
Kenyan marathon runner Stanley Biwott finished second in Ras Al Khaimah in 2013 and went on to win the New York Marathon last autumn. He has a PB of 58:56 and boasts seven major wins over the half marathon.
Tadese isn't the only Eritrean in the field. Nguse Amsolom was second in Ras Al Khaimah two years ago in 59:39, finished fifth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen and won last year’s Lisbon Half Marathon.
After finishing fourth in Ras Al Khaimah in 2015, Kenya’s 22-year-old Edwin Kiptoo improved to 59:26 in Delhi.
Former marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang is also in the field, along with the two fastest 10km runners in history: Leonard Komon and Micah Kogo.
Priscah Jeptoo has fond memories of the RAK Half Marathon. In 2013 she finished second in 1:06:11, her fastest time on a record-eligible course, and returned in 2014 to win in 1:07:02.
This year’s race will be her third appearance in Ras Al Khaimah and she will line up as the fastest woman in the field. The 31-year-old Kenyan has never finished outside the podium in a half marathon. She also excels over the full marathon distance, having taken Olympic silver in 2012 and winning in London and New York City in 2013.
World half marathon champion Gladys Cherono has a similarly impressive career record over 13.1 miles. She has won 10 of her 20 half marathons to date, setting a PB of 1:06:38 in Istanbul last year. She ran 2:20:03 on her marathon debut in Dubai at the start of 2015, then went on to win the Berlin Marathon in a PB of 2:19:25.
With 17 victories from 28 half marathons, Joyce Chepkirui also excels at this distance. She set a PB of 1:06:19 in April 2014 and then won the Commonwealth and African 10,000m titles on the track.
Since finishing third in Ras Al Khaimah last year, Kenya’s Cynthia Limo has improved her PB to 1:06:41. She also won the highly competitive Delhi Half Marathon last year in a close finish.
Gladys Chesir, the 2010 Youth Olympic 3000m champion, only stepped up to the half marathon last year but already has a best of 1:08:36, set when finishing third in Delhi, just one second behind Limo.
It has been seven years since an Ethiopian woman won in Ras Al Khaimah, but Worknesh Degefa could be the athlete to end that drought. She won last year’s Prague Half Marathon in 1:07:14, making her the fastest Ethiopian in the field.
Three-time Dubai Marathon winner Aselefech Mergia, 2009 world 10,000m bronze medallist Wude Ayalew, and 2011 world junior cross-country silver medallist Genet Yalew are among the other Ethiopians entered.
Organisers for the IAAF
Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 58:23
Abraham Cheroben (KEN) 58:48
Stanley Biwott (KEN) 58:56
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 58:59
Micah Kogo (KEN) 59:07
Bernard Koech (KEN) 59:10
Leonard Komon (KEN) 59:14
Birhanu Legese (ETH) 59:20
Simon Cheprot (KEN) 59:20
Edwin Kiprop Kiptoo (KEN) 59:26
Edwin Kipyego (KEN) 59:30
Nguse Amlosom (ERI) 59:30
Martin Mathathi (KEN) 59:48
Emmanuel Bett (KEN) 1:00:08
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 1:05:45
Joyce Chepkirui (KEN) 1:06:19
Gladys Cherono (KEN) 1:06:38
Cynthia Limo (KEN) 1:06:41
Worknesh Degefa (ETH) 1:07:14
Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 1:07:17
Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 1:07:21
Wude Ayalew (ETH) 1:07:58
Genet Yalew (ETH) 1:08:12
Rose Chelimo (KEN) 1:08:22
Gladys Chesir (KEN) 1:08:36
Doris Changeywo (KEN) 1:08:49