New champions to be crowned at 13th Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon



With neither champion from 2018 returning for Friday’s 13th edition of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, the scene is set for two enthralling races, and bearing in mind the strength in depth, both men’s and women’s contests are perhaps harder to predict than for several years.

>{?The new course, a third of which is on the mainland and the rest on the wide sweeping turns of Al Marjan Island – in fact a man-made peninsular leading to a series of four spectacularly shaped islets – offers the separately starting men’s and women’s elite fields every chance to set new event records, and obviously to establish high calibre new course records.

With the men’s leading group scheduled to be led off by pacers at 58:30 tempo – tantalisingly close to the 15-week old world record of 58:18, set by Abraham Kiptum in Valencia, last October – there is no doubting the ambition of the event to keep challenging for more. At just 21, Ethiopia’s Abadi Hadis already has little to prove, bearing in mind his track pedigree and best of 58:44 for the half marathon, but this will be just his third outing at the 21.1km distance and there is good reason to believe he can improve markedly on that time from Valencia last October. His compatriot Fikadu Haftu plans to go with this lightning fast tempo, and perhaps exorcise the frustrations of an injury-ravaged 2018 after his 59:22 best, again in Valencia, in 2017.

Close behind them, the second group, including Switzerland’s new European road 10km record holder Julien Wanders (27:25 in Paris last December), plans to stick to a 59:00 pace; only 1-2 seconds per kilometre slower, but tiny margins make big differences when performing at such a furious speed. The European half marathon record (currently Mo Farah’s 59:32 from Lisbon 2015) is within his reach, while Kenyans Jorum Okombo, Stephen Kiprop and Abel Kipchumba will be among those keeping him company.

For their part, the women are just as keen to prove they can threaten the quickest times in history. No less than five pacemakers, spread at different tempos, will guide them round and with Fancy Chemutai having missed the world record by just one second last year, the organisers are determined to ensure no late-sighting of the finish line can be blamed this time around; there are markers indicating each 100m to go from 500m out.

Starting fifteen minutes before the elite men and mass field, great intrigue surrounds the return of 2017 world record breaker here, Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya. Returning after childbirth and still only 25, she ran a low-key marathon last November in Eldoret, to shed new-mother curves, but believes she is in “around 67-minute shape, possibly faster”..

More confident of their current ability though with contrasting degrees of experience, are reigning world half marathon champion Netsanet Gudeta and debutante Senbere Teferi, both of Ethiopia. Gudeta set a women-only world record in Valencia last March, along with taking the global crown, while Teferi bizarrely is world class from 1500m to marathon but has never run a half marathon. They plan to set off at a speed close to 65:00 schedule, each having brought a personal pacer along.

With the strong north-eastern winds of Wednesday dissipating through Thursday and the breeze swinging to an off-shore, lighter south-easter, conditions look to be ideal for the record-size fields. Whether records result, Ras Al Khaimah is unlikely to be anything but the usual perfect setting for a fine day of racing in the early morning sunshine. The race can be watched in its entirety online by going to the event website:

Sub 60 Men

Abadi Hadis ETH 58:44 Peres Jepchirchir KEN 65:06
Jorum Okombo KEN 58:48 Netsanet Gudeta ETH 66:11
Alex Korio KEN 58:51 Zeineba Yimer ETH 66:21
Daniel Kipchumba KEN 59:06 Senbere Teferi ETH Debut
Stephen Kiprop KEN 59:21 Paskalia Kipkoech KEN 67:17
Fikadu Haftu ETH 59:22 Degitu Azmeraw ETH 66:47
Amedework Walelegn ETH 59:22 Delvine Meringor KEN 67:48
Edwin Kiprop Kiptoo KEN 59:28 Valary Jemeli Aiyabei KEN 67:50
Abel Kipchumba KEN 59:29 Naom Jebet KEN 68:22
Lelisa Desisa ETH 59:30 Etagegn Woldu ETH 69:20
Morris Gachaga KEN 59:36
Mule Wasihun ETH 59:44
Kaan Kigen Ozbilen TUR 59:58
Asefa Tefera ETH 60:07
Julien Wanders SUI 60:09
Gabriel Geay TAN 60:26
Sisay Lema ETH 62:06

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