Legese and Limo shine on day of celebration for world's fastest half marathon
Birhanu Legese and Cynthia Limo proved they are the best half marathon runners in the world on current form with two very different but equally enthralling victories at the 10th anniversary edition of the RAK half marathon this morning.
For the 22 year old Ethiopian Legese it was a repeat of his sprint finish tactics in Berlin and Delhi last year which once again saw him take a 3rd major victory over 13.1 miles. He sat in the pack for the entire race and then out kicked 2015 New York marathon winner Stanley Biwott although both recorded the same time of 60.40.
Cythia Limo took advantage of excellent pace making in the women's race to pull away from reigning world half marathon champion Gladys Cherono in the final kilometre. Her scorching winning time of 66.04 was a massive personal best and puts her 3rd on the official all time list behind only Florence Kiplagat and Mary Keitany.
Cherono's 66.07 places her 4th on the all time list in a race of unparalleled quality.
The first 6 all broke 67 minutes with 5 recording personal bests, underlining RAK's status as the world's fastest half marathon.
Berhanu leaves it late
Much of the focus before the men's race was on Wilson Kipsang. The former marathon world record holder has twice finished on the podium in RAK and was back ready to assess his shape ahead of his quest for a 3rd London marathon title in April.
Compatriot Stanley Biwott was also in confident mood ahead of the race after that excellent win over Geoffrey Kamworor in the New York Marathon last October.
The breezy conditions seemed to encourage a steady pace for the opening kilometres (in contrast to the women's race,) and Kipsang made his presence felt at the front early on.
A large group headed through the first 5km in a very steady 14.29 and 10km in 29.11.
With most of the large front pack running well within themselves, the pace finally picked up with 22 year old Edwin Kiptoo among those trying to turn it into an honest race.
With km splits of 2.47 and 2.49 a lead group of 8 began to pull away.
By 15km Kipsang had drifted over half a minute off the pace, eventually finishing 11th in 62.16.
Kiptoo kept up the pressure and still there was no move from Legese the man who also hung back for his excellent 59.20 win in Delhi at the end of last November.
Biwott tried to pull away, perhaps sensing the sprint to come and despite dropping all the others including Eritrea's Nguse Amlosom and Kenya's Abraham Cheroben (3rd and 4th in 60.41,) he couldn't respond to Legesse's devastating acceleration over the last 100m.
Legese says he's training 200km a week at the moment but doesn't want to try the marathon just yet. With a few more finishes like this, the lure of the big money on offer over 26.2 miles might just prove too tempting.
Limo sparkles with jewel of a run in the Emirate sun
Rather like Wilson Kipsang in the men's race, plenty of the women's pre-race attention focused on Priscah Jeptoo, back here in search of a 2nd RAK title after her victory in 2014. But as the world and Olympic marathon silver medallist pointed out, she is still on her way to recapturing form after the leg fracture almost 2 years ago.
Compatriot Gladys Cherono has certainly caused the world to sit up and take notice in the last few seasons. World half marathon gold in Copenhagen in the spring of 2014 was followed up by a storming marathon win in Berlin last autumn in 2.19.25 the 8th fastest time in history. She was in confident mood before and during the race.
The organisers had asked the pace maker to head out on 66minute pace and when he did so, a sizable group followed despite the breezy conditions.
Early on it was 25 year old Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa who looked the most aggressive behind the pacemaker Lelei yet a group of 12 passed through 5km in 15.49 right on course for a sub 67 finish.
Many of the dozen were operating close to or beyond their life time bests pace and inevitably one by one they began to struggle.
As the leading 7 kept up the intensity going through 10km with a lively 31.32, Jeptoo at last allowed a gap to grow and she gradually drifted off the leading pace, holding onto 8th at the finish with a highly respectable 68.04.
With 47.21 at 15km the magnificent 7 were still together and still on course for sub 67 and this is where the in form Cynthia Limo started to show her strength.
The Delhi half marathon winner last November improved her personal best to 66.41 last month finishing 2nd to Mary Wacera in Houston and she looked full of running. As she hit the front only Cherono could go with her, although tellingly she tucked in behind rather than beside her rival as the definitive break came.
All credit to the reigning half marathon champion because she dug in over the last 800m and only narrowly lost out by 3 seconds 66.04 to 66.07. It was a staggering race from all 3 of the podium finishers.
Limo took 37 seconds off her lifetime best, Cherono lowered her best by 31 seconds and there was a new Ethiopian national record as 23 year old Genet Yalew came home in third with 1.06.26.
This now means that in the women's record books, 6 of the worlds fastest 8 official times have come here at Ras Al Khaimah.
Proof that "The world's fastest half marathon" has once again lived up to it's bold race slogan. This was indeed a 10th anniversary to savour.