Mary Keitany at the 2015 RAK Half Marathon (© organisers / Victah Sailer)
The intense spotlight of the global road running community falls on the RAK Half Marathon on 10 February, where one of the strongest ever women’s half marathon fields has been gathered and the men’s field contains 12 runners with sub-60-minute PBs.
Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong, who finished sixth here last year prior to her London and Olympic victories, will find it no easier this time round as she is one of four global champions in the field. She will be tested by three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, like Sumgong London Marathon-bound. Relatively inexperienced at this distance, Dibaba will be contesting her first half marathon on a record-eligible course.
World half marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir returns too, looking to pick up in 2017 where she left off after her astonishing streak from last year. Course record-holder and three-time New York Marathon champion Mary Keitany, who set a world record of 1:05:50 here in 2011, will also be returning. The 2009 world half-marathon champion will use the race as preparation for the London Marathon.
Eight women in the line-up have PBs with 68 minutes and four of those have bettered 67 minutes. Nineteen of the fastest 50 times in history have been run on this route, so the chances are high of another super-fast in-depth finish.
Patrick Makau’s 58:52 race record from 2009 could be under serious threat in the men’s race, with two of the pacemakers being sub-60 minute performers themselves.
Stanley Biwott returns after his second-place finish last year, itself 10 weeks before his runner-up finish at the London Marathon. Having placed second in 2013 here as well, he may well choose to avoid the tactical men’s affair of 12 months ago when just six seconds covered the first six finishers.
Last year Eritrea’s Nguse Amlosom took third and Bahrain’s Abraham Cheroben placed fourth, each just a stride behind Biwott, and both will be returning this year. Amsterdam Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru, who set a PB of 59:20 when winning the Prague Half Marathon last year, is another athlete who will be heading to the London Marathon after contesting the RAK Half Marathon.
But perhaps the most fascinating addition to the field is Kenya’s Augustine Choge, who in only his second ever half marathon last November, placed third in New Delhi in 1:00:01 and who feels that he has only scratched the surface of his potential at this distance.
Organisers for the IAAF
Solomon Yego (KEN) 58:44
Abraham Cheroben (BRN) 58:48
Stephen Kibet (KEN) 58:54
Bedan Karoki (KEN) 59:14
Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 59:20
Edwin Kipyego (KEN) 59:30
Stanley Biwott (KEN) 59:36
Nguse Amlosom (ERI) 59:39
Adugna Tekele (ETH) 59:40
Yigrem Demelash (ETH) 59:48
Augustine Choge (KEN) 1:00:01
Shadrack Korir (KEN) 1:00:53
Sondre Moen (NOR) 1:02:19
Gabriel Geay (TAN) 1:02:25
Mary Keitany (KEN) 1:05:50
Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 1:06:39
Jemima Sumgong (KEN) 1:06:58
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) 1:06:56
Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 1:07:27
Netsanet Gudeta (ETH) 1:07:31
Helah Kiprop (KEN) 1:07:39
Veronicah Nyaruai (KEN) 1:07:58
Rose Chelimo (BRN) 1:08:08
Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 1:09:07
Gesa-Felicitas Krause (GER) debut
Etagegn Woldu (ETH) debut