MAKAU AND KEITANY TOP TITANIC RAK LINE-UP
With less than a week till the 5th edition of the RAK Half Marathon, the anticipation is building as to just what might unfold in this tiny corner of the UAE, with one of the strongest elite fields ever gathered for a half marathon anywhere, preparing to travel. No less than nine of the elite men’s field have broken 60 minutes for a half marathon, while the women’s line-up in Ras Al Khaimah includes World Record holder over 25km Mary Keitany (KEN) as well as ten other women who’ve run comfortably under 70 minutes.
With general entries higher than ever at over 2600, the majority of entrants will inevitably be "also-rans" enjoying a privileged view of the elite fields ploughing round the fast, flat loop course on the morning of Friday 18th February.
Reigning Berlin Marathon champion Patrick Makau (KEN) headlines the staggering depth of the RAK Half men’s field this year. The 25 year old is the third fastest in history with 58:52 from his second RAK win in February 2009, having won the previous year in 59:35. He opens his 2011 racing campaign after a fabulous 2010 run of form that saw him win the Rotterdam Marathon (2:04:48) in April, followed by that victory in the German capital last September (2:05:08), a brace of wins seldom bettered in one calendar year. He’s warmed up for Rotterdam by winning their half marathon in mid March in 59:51, his eighth time under the one hour barrier - more than anyone in history. There is no reason to believe the two time IAAF world half marathon championship silver medalist (2007-2008), won’t add to that tally, or improve on the astonishing average of his ten best half marathons - 59:26!
The best of the other eight men under the hour, is Bernard Kipyego (KEN) who’s fourth in the Rotterdam Half of 2009 (59:10) puts him eleventh on the all-time list. With ‘only’ four performances below the 60 minute barrier, compared with Makau the 24 year old is a novice of course, but as a member of the exclusive ‘sub-27 minute club’ for a track 10,000m, the 2009 World Half Marathon championship silver medalist is likely be formidable in the closing stages.
Behind this big pairing against the clock, can be added several more luminaries, such as Deriba Merga (ETH) with his 59:15 to boast atop his 6 sub one hour half marathon efforts which include two third places at RAK (2007 & 2009); this prolific 28 year old racer had a difficult 2010, dropping out of both the Chicago and Chunchon Marathons just a fortnight apart last October. If his all too evident impatience in races can be reigned in, a return to form from this enigmatic late-starter could produce yet more plaudits.
Wilson Chebet (KEN) with his 59:15 from 2009 and a 2:06:12 second place in Amsterdam last October, will be a factor, as will John Kiprotich (KEN) with a 59:23 from Rotterdam 2009 - the 23 year old was only 9th in RAK last year and will aim to place significantly better. After his 3rd place last year at RAK (pb 59:51) Titus Masai (KEN) will be optimistic of going better; his form in the Delhi Half Marathon late last November (6th in 60:38) shows that the fast time achieved there in hot humid conditions can be bettered in RAK. Throw in Dickson Marwa (KEN - 59:52), Getu Feleke (ETH - 59:56) and Leonard Langat (KEN 59:56), and the mix in the RAK men’s race this coming Friday will clearly be a toxic mix of flat out running and cool judgment on the long home straight.
For their part, the women promise perhaps even more. Mary Keitany has built a reputation as a shrewd and frighteningly consistent racer, seldom losing or running slow times. The 2009 IAAF World Half Marathon champion has broken 67 minutes 3 times and the average of her best ten half marathons is a scintillating 67:57. Having dipped her toe in to the deep waters of the full marathon in New York last November (3rd in 2:29:01), she returns to her favored distance with a possible shot at the world record of Lornah Kiplagat (NED - 1:06:25) and with good reason - the 29 year old Keitany is the second fastest in history with 1:06:36 from the Birmingham IAAF World Half Marathon championships in October 2009. After RAK, next stop is the London Marathon on 25th April.
Second in last year’s RAK Half Marathon, Ethiopia’s 21 year old Mare Dibaba has already shown formidable marathon form (2:25:27 for 5th in Frankfurt, October 2010) to go with her half marathon speed. Her 67:13 at RAK 2010 behind Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, put her and the diminutive former Ethiopian as No’s 1 and 2 in the world rankings last year and with the European 10,000m champion having pulled out from RAK some weeks ago, Dibaba will fancy her chances this time round.
Not to be discounted are other East Africans like Dire Tune (ETH), the 2009 RAK Half champion, who can also display that precious blend of speed (67:18 for that RAK win) and strength (2nd Frankfurt Marathon in Oct 2010, 2:23:44) and Aberu Kebede (ETH), winner of the Berlin Marathon last September in 2:23:58 and a 67:39 half marathon performer. One athlete who could set the cat amongst the pigeons, is French Record Holder Christelle Daunay (68:34) who with 2nd at the Paris Marathon last April (NR 2:24:22), enjoyed her best year yet and is one of the few Europeans to be able to ‘mix it’ with the top Africans.
Others to watch are Hilda Kibet (NED - 68:40), Agnes Kirop (KEN - 68:48), Aniko Kalovics (68:58), Rose Kosgei (69:03), Joyce Chepkirui (KEN - 69:25) and Eunice Kales (69:50).
The full RAK Half Marathon Elite fields are as follows:
|Men (PB / Name / Nat)||Women (PB / Name / Nat)|
|58:52||Patrick Makau (KEN)||66:36||Mary Keitany (KEN)|
|59:10||Bernard Kipyego (KEN)||67:13||Mare Dibaba (ETH)|
|59:15||Deriba Merga (ETH)||67:18||Dire Tune (ETH)|
|59:15||Wilson Chebet (KEN)||67:39||Aberu Kebede (ETH)|
|59:23||John Kiprotich (KEN)||68:34||Christelle Daunay (FRA)|
|59:51||Titus Masai (KEN)||68:40||Hilda Kibet (NED)|
|59:52||Dickson Marwa (KEN)||68:48||Agnes Kirop (KEN)|
|59:56||Getu Feleke (ETH)||68:58||Aniko Kalovics (HUN)|
|59:56||Leonard Langat (KEN)||69:03||Rose Kosgei (KEN)|
|60:33||Feyisa Lilesa (ETH)||69:25||Joyce Chepkirui (KEN)|
|61:27||Hafid Chani (MOR)||69:50||Eunice Kales (KEN)|