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The RAK Half Marathon was going to be at least as fast as the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon. The field that the organisers had lined up was deep and world records were anticipated. However, there was much to live up to. In Valencia, four men ran faster than the previous world record, all to be the first to run under 58-minutes. Kibiwott Kandie led with a 57:32. Genezebe Dibaba ran the fastest half-marathon debut, all-time. clocking a 65:18.
The RAK Half Marathon had gathered a field that was just as impressive. The 15th edition of the race was set to go on February 19, 2021, on Al Marjan Island, United Arab Emirates — organisers were calling it the World’s Fastest Half Marathon.
The 2020 RAK Half Marathon produced the women’s world record.
Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh won in the time of 64:31, beating defending world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya by 18 seconds. The two performances were faster than the previous world record, held by Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya at 64:51. The third-place finisher was Kenyan Rosemary Wanjiru in 65:34.
Geoffrey Kamworwor, three-time world half marathon champion and former world record holder joined the already elite field competing in the RAK Half Marathon. Also toeing the line was to be Hellen Obiri who is a two-time World Athletics Championship 5000m gold medallist.
The 28-year-old Kamworwor was hit by a motorcycle while training in Kenya last June. It would have been a year since his last race.
Mosinet Geremew and Alexander Mutiso Munyao were also in the race.
Geremew won the 2018 Dubai Marathon and finished second in the 2019 London Marathon with a 2:02.55 finish time. This is the fourth-fastest performance of all-time. He finished second at the 2019 World Marathon Championships. In 2015, he won RAK.
Munyao has recently placed fourth in Valencia at 57.59.
Defending RAK Half Marathon champion Kenyan Stephen Kiprop with a personal best time of 58.42 has also committed.
In aaddition to Kosgei was Ababel Yeshaneh, who is the mixed-gender-race half marathon world record holder.
Peres Jepchirchir, Ruth Chepngetich, Yalemzerf Yehualaw, and Sara Hall were all expected to toe-the-line, however, Hall had raced in October at the London Marathon and then ran The Marathon Project.
Jepchirchir won the 2020 World Half Marathon Championship in Gdynia, Poland with a (women’s only) record time of 65.16. At Valencia last month she clocked a near seven-minute improvement with a 2:17.15, which is the fifth-fastest time in history.
So, during February and March, it is likely that there will be at least several men and women who are highly fit and seeking a race opportunity. Watch for some excellent performances in perhaps less auspicious events in East Africa.