Press Room

Published by: RAK Half Marathon
Category: Race News
Thu 09 Feb, 2017

Tirunesh Dibaba Back To Full Power

The first elite athlete to arrive in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) for the Emirate’s annual half marathon this Friday (February 10th), it is hard to argue with the suggestion that Tirunesh Dibaba, the 31 year old Ethiopian who for nearly nine years has held the world record for 5,000m, is already the greatest female distance runner in history. In relaxed mood on Wednesday afternoon two nights before the early morning race, the well-earned nickname of “Baby Faced Destroyer”, could hardly seem less apt, though she seems quietly ready to enhance the reputation.

Of her three Olympic and nine World titles, this unassuming, self-coached distance legend insists it was her very first IAAF World Championship 5,000m victory in Paris 2003 – when she was a mere 17 years old – that still gives her the most satisfaction. However, despite the regular destruction of top opposition in literally dozens of track races over the following thirteen years, she plans to gradually focus more on the roads after her initial foray on tarmac was cut short for motherhood in 2014. That spring, she was third in the London Marathon in her first and so far only such outing, in 2:20.35 – a handy debut – but she steps forward here in the UAE for “just a fitness check” as her return to the ultimate challenge in London next April, begins in earnest.

It will be her first foray on such a fast, flat course, and when questioned about the pace she would prefer on Friday, she remarked casually that she must still confer with husband and coaching-advisor Sileshi Sihine back in Addis Ababa. The ambition however, as if not given away by her arrival 24 hours ahead of the other world class racers, came to the surface when told that this would actually be her first ever opportunity to set an Ethiopian national record for the distance; a distinct glint appeared in her eyes when this nugget was dangled, followed by a more intense stare and a telling response, “That is an interesting target.”

She admitted that she was delighted with her third in the Ethiopian 10,000m Olympic Trial last summer in Holland, as well as by her Olympic bronze over the same distance. “You know, last year I was still coming back from having a baby, but now I am strong and training has gone very well.”

The ominous ring to that comment is not lost on those who’ve seen her move effortlessly to the roads at lower distances – she used to hold the world record for 15km – but the admission that the new challenge has given her training more impetus, is surely an indication of great things to come. “I’m finding that for the marathon, I have to train even harder than before. It’s an event I’m still a little scared of – that’s not the case for anything on the track – but whether I’ll take on the 10,000m or Marathon at London 2017 (the IAAF World Championships in August), depends on how I run at London in April. Either way, I love running and still enjoy training. I am one of those like Haile (Gebrselassie) who will actually keep running till I have to use a walking-stick.”

The opposition facing the senior Dibaba of the several racing so well globally, is truly astonishing, though she has admitted that she wants just “a strong run” and the only thing that matters is that her April appointment in London goes well. Kenya’s Mary Keitany knows this routine well, but having run so fast here and won on three previous occasions, the 35 year old will feel that only a fourth RAK victory will suffice. Her 2011 mark of 65:50 was a world record at the time and is still the event record, but subsequent winning clockings of 66:49 (2012) and 66:02 (2015) will give her the confidence to attack the slightly adjusted course. Course measurer John Kunkeler believes the route is even faster than in the past.

Jemima Sumgong is also London bound, but having found herself in sixth place twelve months ago here, despite setting a personal best of 66:58, will expect to step up a gear this time; when like Dibaba and Keitany, she too arrives in London in ten weeks, as both reigning Olympic and London Champion, she’ll have a much bigger target on her back.

The final major women’s player in what could be a truly mighty clash on Friday, is reigning IAAF World Half Marathon Champion Peres Jepchirchir. Never having raced a marathon and with no immediate plans, certainly not in London this coming spring, she might race here with the advantage of total focus at her specialist distance, something which carried her well through most of 2016. She too however, will need to break new ground, as her fourth place time of 66:39 last year, still left her over half a minute behind winner Cynthia Limo’s 66:04.

Ten men with best times below sixty minutes, will line up in Friday’s 7am start making a likely winner in the pulsatingly strong field, almost impossible to select. The late withdrawal of last year’s second placer Stanley Biwott, hardly eases the task but if the sunshine of the last two days continues to replace the unseasonably strong winds and cold weather that has dogged this part of Arabia of late – after plenty of rain, it snowed here just a few days ago – then another sub-60 minute race is almost inevitable.

The 11th RAK Half Marathon Women’s Elite race starts at 6.45am local time (2.45am UK) and the men 15 minutes later. The races are being covered live globally on Abu Dhabi Sports Channel 2 and can be found on the internet at https://video.tv.ae/channels/3078/ad-sport-2-hd or on the TVAE App on smart phones.

Elite Men

PB

Elite Women

PB

1

Solomon Yego (KEN)

58:44

1

Mary Keitany (KEN)

65:50 CR

2

Abraham Cheroben (BRN)

58:48

2

Peres Jepchirchir (KEN)

66:39

3

Bedan Karoki (KEN)

59:14

3

Jemima Sumgong

66:58

4

Daniel Wanjiru (KEN)

59:20

4

Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH)

66:56

5

Edwin Kipyego (KEN)

59:30

5

Helah Kiprop (KEN)

67:39

6

Nguse Amlosom (ERI)

59:39

6

Veronicah Niyaruai (KEN)

67:58

7

Adugna Tekele (ETH)

59:40

7

Rose Chelimo (BRN)

68:08

8

Yigrem Demelash (ETH)

59:48

8

Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN)

69:07

9

Augustine Choge (KEN)

60:01

9

Gesa-Felicitas Krause (GER)

Debut

10

Shadrack Korir (KEN)

60:53

10

Etagegn Woldu (ETH)

Debut

11

Sondre Moen (NOR)

62:19

Pace

Timothy Kimeli

12

Gabriel Geay (TAN)

62:25

Pace

Geoffrey Kipyego

Pace

Kenneth Keter (KEN)

59:48

Pace

Geoffrey Yegon (KEN)

59:44

Pace

John Maina Ndirangu (KEN)


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