With the 8th edition of the RAK Half Marathon less than 24 hours away, the elite athletes recently delivered to Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE for Friday morning’s race, looked remarkably calm at Thursday’s pre-race press conference, no doubt retaining their energies for the inevitable exertions of the following morning.

The elite, of course, will see little of the near 3,000 “also-rans” behind them comprising some 93 nationalities, most in the half marathon as individuals starting at 7 am, but over 650 participating in the Team Relay Challenge which gets underway at 7:15 am. The latter splits the race into four manageable slices, with each runner having to cover approximately 5km, or about 3 miles. Encouraging participation and team spirit, the relay has grown year on year and it’s amongst the relay runners that the biggest smiles at the finish will be seen.

The 7 am start time is designed to avoid the rising mid-morning temperatures – it’s frequently in the mid-20’s Centigrade (mid/high 70s Fahrenheit) long before midday – and should also assist in avoiding the regular winds that gust down from the Hajar Mountains to the northeast of the Emirate’s capital. Although this has been a relatively wet year for RAK so far, dry and still conditions are anticipated, and the elite athletes know that this is a golden chance to make their mark after months of training hibernation since the autumn road racing season.

Despite some high-profile withdrawals in recent days, the elite fields still look astonishingly strong. The two Kenyan runners, Abel and Sam, can each boast a best of 59:10, making them joint quickest, although Abel’s amazing 58:41 on the downhill San Diego course last June, put him over 90 seconds ahead of a successful Berlin-bound David. Sam, for his part, is a wonderfully versatile runner, having won world medals on track and cross country as well as having run 2:07 twice in 2013 among his three marathons in the year. As a member of the sub-27-minute club for a track 10,000m, he will be hard to shake in a sprint too. Throw in Michael (best of 59:15), a half marathon specialist fresh from his 59:49 in Delhi last December, and John, Berlin Half winner last year in 59:36, and a Kenyan victory seems likely.

However, this would be rash for the Ethiopian pairing of Isaac and Daniel, who are quite formidable. Isaac was fourth in RAK last year in 59:25 (5th in 2012), and with his sub-2:05 marathon strength, is sure to feature. Daniel won the Dubai and Boston marathons in 2013 and in fact makes a habit of winning – he has won four of his last five half marathons but, able to boast a half best of 59:30, has never run in RAK before. The unknown factor, of course, is their young compatriot Adam, making his “fit” debut; he was injured when he ran a modest 64:37 in Lisbon last October. For the 2011 world 10,000m champion, a personal best is all but guaranteed – but by how much?

Amongst the women, while Olympic Marathon Champion Sarah is out injured, the Kenyan Jeptoo sisters are here and both Priscah (2nd in RAK 2013 in PB 66:11) and Rita (3rd in PB 66:27) know the course well enough now to attack it with confidence this year. Their astonishing consistency, however, might not be enough to hold back the current world marathon No.1, Hannah; unrelated to the Dibaba running sisters from her nation, she could still ensure the famous surname is to the fore as she continues her preparations for April’s Boston Marathon. After 2nd in RAK 2010 (PB 67:13) and 3rd in 2011 (68:57), Hannah is unleashing pent-up frustrations from being out with illness for all of 2013 and is keen to complete the set of top three positions here.

Withdrawals: MEN – Dennis Kimetto (twisted ankle), Stanley Biwott (“leg pain”), Ayele Abshero (stomach problem). WOMEN – Linet Masai (unfit).



NameNationPersonal Best
Abel KoechKEN58:41/59:10
Sam KogoKEN59:07/60:17
Bernard KipyegoKEN59:10
Michael KipropKEN59:15
Isaac LelisaETH59:22
Daniel DesisaETH59:30
John KendagorKEN59:36
Paul LonyangataKEN59:53
Nguse AmlosomERI60:46
Adam JeilanETH64:37


NameNationPersonal Best
Priscah JeptooKEN65:45/66:11
Rita JeptooKEN66:27
Hannah DibabaETH67:13
Flomena CheyechKEN67:39
Helah KipropKEN67:39
Aberu KebedeETH67:39
Worknesh DegefaETH67:49
Caroline KilelKEN68:16
Feyse TadeseETH68:35
Guteni Shone

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