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RAK Half Marathon 2012 Preview

Geoffrey Mutai

Geoffrey Mutai

The sixth RAK Half Marathon on February 17th, now a well-established IAAF Gold Label Road Race, promises even more than the usual fare in this tiny corner of the United Arab Emirates, which is saying a great deal for a race that can boast a number of world records and dozens of personal bests from the elite in the previous five editions, including Mary Keitany’s astonishing 65:50 world record just twelve months ago.

In both Men’s and Women’s line-ups, the names confirmed make clear that the RAK event is now widely identified as a perfect form-indicator and preparatory race for those elite men and women planning an April marathon which, this coming spring marathon season, might secure them an Olympic team berth.

The tiny but lion-hearted Keitany returns to the scene of this clockwise loop race that last year projected her towards a 2:19:19 victory in London eight weeks later and her inevitable status as one of the favourites for Olympic Marathon gold later this year. In spite of her ill-judged pacing and subsequent third place in New York last November – she reached half way at close to world record tempo, only to slow dramatically to a 2:23:38 clocking – it is hard to imagine a Kenyan Olympic squad without the 30 year old, but she will know that many more eyes watch her every result now than prior to record-shattering run at RAK 2011.

In addition, Keitany has returned gently to training after her wedding last December 31st and admits to not being in World Record shape, but in “only” around 67 minute form. She will need to be, because lined up against her is a high calibre field with no less than seven other athletes who have broken 70:00 for the half marathon, the fastest being Caroline Cheptanui Kilel (68:16), significantly the Boston Marathon champion last year in 2:22:36.

For their part, with nine boasting sub 60 minute bests, the men can justifiably claim a harder victory will be fought out after the early morning starter’s gun, particularly when one remembers that every one of the five editions so far has been won in well under the hour. Last year’s champion Deriba Merga does not run but in his place are several marathoning luminaries of 2011 from Kenya, such as Geoffrey Mutai, the fastest marathon runner ever after his wins last year in Boston (2:03:02) and New York (2:05:06), Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich who won in Otsu (2:06:13) and then Frankfurt (2:03:42), and Wilson Chebet, the Rotterdam (2:05:27) and Amsterdam (2:05:53) champion.

To underline the strength of the men’s line-up, other runners that just miss top billing such as Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist and one of the most consistent marathon runners of the last four years, and Lelisa Desisa who won the Delhi Half Marathon in 59:30 in late November, would top the start list at most races. Likewise, after placing second here last year (59:44), Bernard Kipyego now knows the RAK course and with five sub 60 minute clockings in the last three years as well as the strength of a 2:06:29 third place in Chicago last October, will be a strong contender for a podium spot.

With pacemakers lined up for both Men and Women, two lightning quick races are in prospect once again in RAK. General entries have risen to almost 3,000 – a not insignificant number in the Emirates – and if conditions are good, who knows where this year’s times might get down to.

The RAK Half Marathon will be held on 17 February 2012 and is an IAAF Gold Label Race (Silver Label 2009, 2010, 2011) and a full member of the Association of Marathons and Distance Running (AIMS).

The RAK Half Marathon 2012 is presented by Saqr Port and supported by adidas, UPS, Al Ain Water, Capri Sun, RAK Hospital, Outdoor UAE, La Luna and RAK Police.

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich    KEN    58:59
Bernard Kipyego    KEN    59:10
Wilson Chebet    KEN    59:15
Lelisa Desisa    ETH    59:30
Geoffrey Mutai    KEN    59:30
Tsegay Kebede    ETH    59:35
Azmeraw Bekele    ETH    59:39
Kiplimo Kimutai    KEN    59:44
Fabiano Joseph    TAN    59:56
Levy Matebo Omari    KEN    60:06
Joseph Nganga Maregu    KEN    60:24
Feyisa Lelisa    ETH    60:33
Dennis Kipruto Koech    KEN    61:30A

Mary Keitany    KEN    65:50
Caroline Cheptanui Kilel    KEN    68:16
Hilda Kibet    KEN    68:39
Feysa Tadesse    ETH    68:44
Aniko Kalovics    HUN    68:58
Georgina Rono    KEN    69:08
Gladys Cherono    KEN    69:26
Rose Chelimo    KEN    69:45
Serena Burla    USA    70:08


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