Personal Bests Abound At Stacked RAK Half Marathon

Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse turns in impressive debut at RAK. Photo:
Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse turns in impressive debut at RAK. Photo:

“If the pace had been faster and steadier, my time could have been a lot quicker,” Abeylegesse told the reporters after the event.  “I felt easy at 15 km (48:03) and it was only then I decided to start pushing the pace.”

With the temperature at 18°C (64°F) at the start, conditions were very good for racing.  The opening 5 km was slightly conservative for this notoriously fast race (16:02), but the pace quickened in the second 5 km segment, passing through 10-K in 31:54.  Through 15-K five women remained with Abeylegesse, all Ethiopians: Teyba Erkesso, Aselefech Mergia, Koren Jelela, Aselefech Mergia and Mare Dibaba**.

Abeylegesse was ready to pounce.  She reacted to a move by Erkesso, then blew through the 20-K mark with a 15:44 5 km segment behind her.  Holding her pace, she broke the tape first, with Dibaba following in a national record 67:13, Mergia in a personal best 67:22, and Tune –who is in heavy training for the Boston Marathon — in fourth.

The men’s contest was won by Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai in 59:43.  He defeated Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga, the defending Boston Marathon champion, who dropped out at 18-K, and Merga’s compatriot, Tadese Tola, the reigning New York City Half-Marathon champion, who broke the one hour mark for the first time in 59:49.  Third place went to Kenyan Titus Masai in 59:51, a personal best.  Patrick Makau’s course record of 58:52 was never under threat.

Both Abeylegesse and Mutai earned USD 20,000 in prize money, but Abeylegesse also earned a USD 5,000 course record bonus.

Organizers reported a record field of about 2000 entrants; the number of official finishers was not immediately available.

*The USA’s Kara Goucher ran 66:57 in her debut at the slightly aided Great North Run, from Newcastle to South Shields, England, in 2007

**This athlete, born “Hurssa Mare Dibaba” in Ethiopia, became a citizen of Azerbaijan June, 2009, but has reverted back to Ethiopian citizenship, according to Pierre Weiss of the IAAF.

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