Former world marathon champion Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia has confirmed his participation in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on February 24. The area is where he emerged as a world-class road runner when winning the neighbouring Dubai Marathon in 2017.
Chicago Marathon winner Seifu Tura and former women’s half marathon world record holder, Ababel Yeshaneh, will also be joining their compatriot in RAK. The entry for the 17th edition of the event is expected to read like a who’s who of international distance running as a wealth of elite athletes seek to take advantage of the benign Gulf conditions in the countdown for the spring marathons and the Paris Olympics.
Having won Olympic bronze on the track at Rio 2016, Tola established himself as one of the leading road runners of his generation when he won Dubai 2017, and followed that up with silver at the World Championships in London later that year. Tola won world marathon gold in Eugene in 2022, but in the interim, he won the Amsterdam Marathon in 2021 and then topped that with victory in the New York City Marathon three months ago. He also finished third in the Tokyo and London Marathons in 2022. The 33-year-old’s fastest half marathon was a winning performance in 59:37 in Prague in 2017. His close family also keeps him on his toes; his wife Dera Dida won the Dubai Marathon 2023, and his younger brother Abdisa took the corresponding men’s title.
It’s a measure of the fast course in RAK that his compatriot Tura has run over a minute faster than Tola, but his 58:36 in 2022 was only good for fourth. But a victory and second place in the Chicago Marathon has bolstered his credentials.
Their colleague Ababel Yeshaneh returns to the scene of one of her greatest victories, having set a world record of 64:31 in winning on the spectacular course around Al Marjan Island in the 2020 race. That time remains her personal best at the distance, although at the marathon distance, she also has two runner-up finishes to her name in Chicago 2019 and Boston 2022, as well as a third-place finish at the New York Marathon 2021.
The three Ethiopians will join elite fields that already include men’s defending champion Benard Kibet of Kenya (58:45) and his colleague, reigning Olympic Marathon Champion and three-time World Half Marathon Champion Peres Jepchirchir, who set her best half marathon in winning RAK 2017 in a then world record of 65:06.