Ras Al Khaimah: Bedan Karoki emerged as the best in Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon with a timing 0:58:42 in the men’s category, while his compatriot Fancy Chemutai won the women’s category title in 1:04:52.
The much anticipated clash of world record holders Joyciline Jepkosgei (half marathon) and Mary Keitany (women-only marathon), almost went to script, though the former dropped away shortly after half way, to an eventual fifth as we later found out, suffering the residual effects of a bout of flu over the last two weeks; under that circumstance, her 66:46 clocking was quite miraculous.
Keitany, it was as last year, a case of so near, yet so far; she was outsprinted by Peres Jepchirchir’s world record run last year, and this time, found yet another 23-year-old Kenyan colleague just too good. It was Fancy Chemutai, the second placer in Jepkosgei’s world record last October, who had the greater speed over the last 100 metres. Frustratingly, the surge from both ladies was delayed by a vital few seconds till they saw the finish line clock, otherwise Chemutai’s brilliant time of 64:52 might have gone one second under the world record, not one second over it.
The men’s race, starting 15 minutes after the women, was of almost equally momentous proportions. With eleven sub-60 minute performers on the line and a stated 10km target time of 27:50, the ambitions were not far off another world record assault. While that might remain the ambition for another day, when the large pack of twelve reached 10km in 27:48 (5km was 13:53), clearly another big performance was in the offing.
Again, excellent pacing did its job and it was long in to the third quarter of the race that the pack began to thin-out, prolific racer Alex Kibet in particular, pushing alongside the leaders. With 15km reached in 41:43 (13:55 split), it was down to four and at this sub-59 minute tempo, as in the ladies contest, it had become a war of attrition. Slowly but surely however, the reigning champion Karoki, began to impose himself and at 19km, he nosed to the front and injected a testing surge; there was no response. He surged again and daylight formed, and that gap grew further, through 20km (55:55/14:11) when it became a loosely grouped threesome.
Karoki almost danced through the line in 58:42, making him fifth fastest in history, smiling broadly in the knowledge that he’d beaten a fabulous field, and that his own preparations for the London Marathon, were so perfectly on course. His final km was calculated at not much outside 2:30 — fittingly a track-racer’s closing speed, and with an 18-second winning margin, there is clearly more to come.