Geoffrey Mutai and Mary Keitany will lead the charge.
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Organizers at the RAK Half Marathon announced Thursday an extremely robust elite field set for the February 17th race in the United Arab Emirates. Kenyans Mary Keitany and Geoffrey Mutai headline the event, which is in it’s sixth year.
Keitany, the women’s defending champion, will return to Ras Al Khaimah a year after she set the world record there, running 65:50 to take more than thirty seconds off Lornah Kiplagat’s previous world best of 66:25. Like many of the athletes announced today, Keitany will be using the February race as an indicator of fitness prior to the April World Marathon Major competitions in Boston and London. The 30 year-old recently shared her plans to defend her Virgin London Marathon title come April 22.
The men’s elite field features a plethora of long distance aces, led by Mutai, the current World Marathon Majors standings leader and fastest marathoner of all time. The 30-year-old comes to Ras Al Khaimah ready to prove himself worthy of an Olympic spot, as he is one of six men named in the running for Kenya’s three Olympic Marathon entries. Mutai will race the RAK Half Marathon before returning to the Boston Marathon, where he aims to defend his 2011 title.
Joining Mutai in the United Arab Emirates will be Rotterdam Marathon champion Wilson Chebet, as well as BMW Frankfurt Marathon winner Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, both of Kenya. Kipsang Kiprotich is the fourth fastest marathoner of all-time, boasting a personal best of 2:03:42.
Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede and Feyisa Lelisa, bronze medalists at the 2008 Olympic Marathon and 2011 IAAF World Championships Marathon, respectively, will also be competing. In total, nine sub-60:00 half-marathoners will be competing for the $25,000 first place prize.
In addition to Keitany on the women’s side, seven other athletes having run under 70:00 for 13.1 km are entered. Included is 2011 Boston Marathon champion Caroline Kilel, whose personal best of 68:16 is second only to Keitany in the field. Kenya’s Hilda Kibet (68:39), Ethiopia’s Feysa Tadesse (68:44), and Hungary’s Aniko Kalovics (68:58) have all run sub-69 for the distance.
In it’s sixth edition, the RAK Half Marathon is known for extremely fast times, with pacemakers aiding the leaders. The loop course has produced not only Keitany’s world record, but also a 58:52 men’s course record from Patrick Makau. The race is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.