Kenyan former World marathon record-holder Wilson Kipsang will battle it out with his African compatriots at the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates on February 12.
Contending the 10th edition title with Wilson Kipsang, who has personal best 58:59, in Ras Al Khaimah is the fastest man over the distance in 2015 – Abraham Cheroben.
The 23-year-old Cheroben, who ran world-leading times in 2014 and 2015 with runs of 58:48 and 59:10 respectively, will be the man to watch in the race.
The 2015 New York City Marathon champion Stanley Biwott (58:56) is also part of the field.
The 29-year-old Kenyan has a lifetime best time of 58:56 and boasts of seven major wins over the half marathon distance including Paris and Philadelphia.
Zersenay Tadese, 33, is the most decorated half-marathon runner in history, having won five world titles over the distance.
Although his world record of 58:23 was set six years ago, his 59:24 timing in Delhi last November showed he still ranks among the best in the world.
The other Kenyan to watch is Bernard Koech, who is the third-fastest athlete of all time. Although his PB of 58:41 was achieved on a slightly downhill course in San Diego, he finished fourth in Ras Al Khaimah in 2014, running 59:46.
After finishing fourth in Ras Al Khaimah in 2015, Kenya’s 22-year-old Edwin Kiptoo, who improved to 59:26 in Delhi, has joined the mix.
Ethiopian Birhanu Legese ran brilliantly to win New Delhi Half Marathon last autumn, and if the pace is anywhere around that winning time of 59.20, he has proved that he can produce a devastating turn of pace in the last 100m.
Jeptoo leads RAK women’s field
Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo is the fastest in the women’s field which includes three women that have broken the 67 minutes barrier.
Jeptoo, the World and Olympic marathon silver medalist is as consistent over the half as she is the full distance, with top 3 finishes in all 10 of her major half marathon races including victory at the Great North Run in 2013 (in 65.45) and here at RAK in 2014 (67.02).
Her slightly disappointing 6th place finish in the New York City Marathon last October will have made her even more determined to return to the podium places here.
But reigning World Half Marathon Champion Gladys Cherono will be hoping 2016 continues her rich vein of form.
Last year she ran a 2.20 marathon in Dubai at the start of the year, followed that up with a very impressive 66.38 half in Istanbul in April and then topped it all off by winning September’s Berlin Marathon with 2.19.25, the 8th fastest time in history.
Joyce Chepkirui became Commonwealth Champion over 10,000m in 2014 and won the Amsterdam Marathon last autumn with a solid 2.24. Her half marathon PB of 66.19 means if she’s feeling good she cannot be ruled out of a podium finish.
Cynthia Limo will be a familiar face and name to the RAK crowds after finishing 3rd in 2015 with a punchy 67.02.
She rounded off the year winning a high quality New Delhi half in 68.35, an impressive time considering the first 5 km was run at a pedestrian pace. Is this her year to step out from the shadow of some of her better known compatriots?
In terms of emerging East African talent, watch out for 22-year-old Gladys Chesir. Apart from producing the fastest 10km of 2015 with 30.41, she finished 3rd in New Delhi in 68.36 after that slow first 5km.
Ethiopia brings some experienced women hoping to challenge the Kenyan dominance.
Wude Ayalew has run three sub 69 minute half marathons, although her best time came 7 years ago and Aselefech Mergia, who has previously held two podium places in RAK (in 2009 and 2010) will be making a return.
The RAK Half Marathon is the world’s fastest half marathon and the only race in the UAE to be certified by and be a member of AIMS (Association of International Marathon and Distance Races) and has witnessed two World Bests, four World and six National Records.
Since its inception in 2007, the RAK Half Marathon has brought the world’s fastest runners and local participants together annually to partake in the region’s leading road race.