RAK Half Marathon Features Top Africans

The huge purse has attracted a strong field.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Friday’s RAK Half Marathon in the tiny Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah boasts some of Africa’s best distance runners, including last year’s #1-ranked marathoner, Patrick Makau of Kenya.

All told, nine men contracted to run the fifth edition of the flat, fast, and certified half-marathon have broken one hour during their careers.

Makau, 25, was flawless in his marathon racing in 2010, winning at both Rotterdam and Berlin and earning the Track & Field News #1 ranking in the marathon. At the Dutch race, he clocked the year’s fastest time of 2:04:48, a personal best, then came back to run nearly as fast in Germany’s largest marathon in 2:05:08. As a half-marathoner, Makau has been nearly as good, especially in Ras Al Khaimah. He’s run there three times, winning in both 2008 and 2009, and taking second in 2007. In the 2009 race, he clocked 58:52, still the #3 mark of all time.

Makau has twice won the silver medal at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships. Chasing Makau will be more of Africa’s best, including Kenyan Bernard Kipyego, the 2009 World Half silver medallist who holds a personal best of 59:10; Ethiopian Deriba Merga, the 2009 Boston Marathon champion (59:15); Kenyan Wilson Chebet, who finished sixth at the 2009 World Half (59:15); and Tanzanian Dickson Marwa, the 2003 and 2005 Gold Coast Marathon champion (59:52).

The women’s race is equally as strong, led by the fourth-fastest woman of all time, Mary Keitany, 29, of Kenya (1:06:36 PB). Keitany, who finished third in her marathon debut last November in New York, won two half-marathons last year and smashed the world record for 25-K in Berlin (1:19:53). Keitany’s two top rivals should be Ethiopia’s Dire Tune (1:07:18), the 2008 Boston Marathon champion and last year’s World Half silver medallist, and Mare Dibaba, the Ethiopian record holder for the half-marathon with a 1:07:13 personal best.

Other fast Africans in the field include Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede (1:07:39) and Kenya’s Agnes Kiprop (1:08:48), Rose Kosgei (1:09:03), Joyce Chepkirui (1:09:25), and Eunice Kales (1:09:50). Two strong Europeans, Hungary’s Anikó Kálovics (1:08:58) and France’s Christelle Daunay (1:08:34) are also in the field. Each holds their respective half-marathon national records.

The RAK Half-Marathon offers over $250,000 in prize money and bonuses. The male and female race winners will receive $25,000 each, provided they finish in under 60 minutes and 70 minutes, respectively. There are $5,000 bonuses for both the men’s and women’s course records (58:52 and 1:07:07), plus $50,000 bonuses for the men’s and women’s IAAF world records (58:23 and 1:06:25). Organizers said they expect a record 2600 entries for the event. Last year’s edition had 1341 official finishers.

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