RAK HALF MARATHON WILL BE FAST - AGAIN!
What makes the RAK Half Marathon stand out from many running events - in the middle east and further afield - is really quite simple; the organizers work to stage an elite race that is strong in depth and which produces very fast times.
This IAAF Silver Label event, staged around the pancake flat city of Ras Al Khaimah, close to the northern tip of the small middle east nation of the United Arab Emirates, has come a long way in its' four year life. While plenty of competition organizers around the globe buy in a big name and set up a glorified time trial - one or two of them not a million miles from Ras Al Khaimah - the RAK Half team have pulled together this year and each of the previous three years, enough fast athletes to genuinely claim that they stage one of the world's top eliteevents.
While the men have grabbed the headlines in each of the three previous additions, uppermost in many people's minds for the Friday morning event, is Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse, the diminutive former Ethiopian who, while running in the colors of Turkey, happened to garner two silver medals in Beijing 18 months ago. It was in those 2008 Olympics that she became the fourth fastest in history at the track 10km and while a right achilles injury scuppered any chance of a similar level of performance in Berlin last year (she DNF'd in the 10,000m), she's now back to full strength and raring to go.
In relaxed mood the day before the race, the 27 year old, who spends most of the year funding and training with a small group of two of her brothers and other friends in Addis Ababa, has rarely ventured on to the roads and has never raced further than 10km on any surface. Her step up to 21.1km with her appearance in the 4th RAK Half Marathon could be a revelation; she talked casually about the possibility of a world record - eminently achievable when one considers her track pedigree, a world record for 5,000m in 2004 (14:24:68 - still No.5 All Time) and that awesome 10,000m in Beijing (29:56:34 - No.4 All Time) just behind Tirunesh Dibaba for starters. A recent increase in training volume under Croatian coach Nicola Boric, might just have tweaked things sufficiently.
To hit the tough world best for the half marathon (1:06:25 by Lornah Kiplagat in Udine, 2007) the Turk will have to reach 10km in 31:20, 15km in 47:00 (only six women have ever gone faster) and then maintain that tempo for over 6km further. It looks tough, but seeing as she's a chunk quicker than Kiplagat at 10,000m it is certainly feasible. If the record proves elusive, a fast time would still seal a solid winter for Abeylegesse, who plans the 5,000/10,000m double at this coming summer's European Champs in Barcelona, but says a marathon debut will have to wait till after the 2012 Olympics.
Accompanying her through the early stages at least is likely to be Hilda Kibet, herself due to break substantial new ground. The Dutch athletes' current best of 1:09:43 was in 2007 but her 51:21 clocking for 10 miles last September in Zaandam, indicates that this former European CC Champion of Kenyan origin, can go some 2-3 minutes quicker.
On the men's side, Abu Dhabi half winner Tilahun Regassa has pulled out, but has been replaced by last August's NYC Half Marathon winner, 60:45 performer Tadesse Tola of Ethiopia.
The RAK Half Marathon organizers might not have the massive funding of other events in the region, but they know how to stage a race and they know how to pull together a strong field - not always as easy as some in the industry seem to appreciate.
RAK Half Marathon Elite Line-ups:
Men / Nat / PR
Deriba Merga (ETH) 59:15
John Kiprotich (KEN) 59:23
Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) 59:30
Stephen Kibiwott (KEN) 59:37
Jairus Chanchima (KEN) 59:43
Moses Arusei (KEN) 59:44
Fabiano Joseph (TAN) 59:56
Lelisa Desisa (ETH) 59:59
Tadesse Tola (ETH) 60:45
Women / Nat / PR
Dire Tune (ETH) 1:07:18
Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 1:07:48
Caroline Cheptanui (KEN) 1:08:16
Atsede Habtamu (ETH) 1:08:29
Mare Ibrahimova (AZE) 1:08:45
Magdalene Mukunzi (KEN) 1:08:52
Rosaria Console (ITA) 1:09:34
Hilda Kibet (NED) 1:09:43
Meseret Mengistu (ETH) 1:09:45
Agnes Kiprop (KEN) 1:09:54
Elvan Abeylegesse (TUR) Debut
For more information please visit www.rakmarathon.org
The RAK Half Marathon will be held on 19 February 2010 and is an IAAF Silver Label Race and a full member of the Association of Marathons and Distance Running (AIMS). Registration closes on October 30, 2009.
Premier Marathons was established in 2001 to conceptualize, create and organize world class road races. Premier Marathons are the lead organizers of the RAK Half Marathon.
For further information, please contact:
| Greg Fairlie
RAK Half Marathon
Tel: +971 50 347 6424
| Tim Hutchings
International Media Coordinator
RAK Half Marathon
Tel: +44 1444 257 160