Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir crosses finish line in record time at the RAK Half Marathon. Image Credit: Courtesy: Organisers

Ras Al Khaimah: Peres Jepchirchir smashed the world record as runners from Kenya dominated in the 11th RAK Half Marathon on Friday.

Run in near perfect conditions, the IAAF World Champion finished in a time of 65:06 minutes, shaving off three seconds off the world record set by Florence Kiplagat nearly two years ago in Barcelona.

It was an amazing result for the Kenyan runner as she had finished in fourth place last year in Ras Al Khaimah. And the joy was doubly rewarding as Jepchirchir has just about recovered from a severe attack of pneumonia.

But for now, the 23-year-old can revel in the delight of her newfound fame. In the process, Jepchirchir also broke the world record for 20km in a mixed race with a new time of 61:40 minutes, cutting off 14 seconds off Kiplagat’s previous time in Barcelona.

The new record has to be ratified by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), the world governing body for athletics.

Finishing behind Jepchirchir was fellow Kenyan and defending RAK champion Mary Keitany, who still went on to set a personal best time with an effort of 65:13 minutes. Joyciline Jepkosgei ensured a clean sweep for Kenya in the women’s category while crossing the finish line in a time of 66:08, while Jemima Sumgong completed the Kenyan domination while coming in fourth with 66:43 minutes.

In the men’s category, IAAF World Half Marathon Championship silver medallist Bedan Karoki ensured success for Kenya after he finished with a flourish and a fast time of 59:10 minutes. Yigrem Demelash of Ethiopia came in second with a time of 59:19, leaving the Kenyan duo of Augustine Choge and Solomon Yego in third and fourth place with times of 59:26 and 59:50 respectively.

Over the years, the annual RAK Half Marathon has lined up a strong field of specialised distance runners. This year was no exception with perhaps the greatest combined men’s and women’s runners lining up.

In the men’s section were a dozen athletes with personal best times of below one hour, while in the women’s category the spotlight had been on the Kenyans led by 2016 Rio de Janeiro marathon champion Jemima Sumgong — who ultimately finished in fourth — and three-time former Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, making her half marathon debut in Ras Al Khaimah.

As many as 2,979 athletes registered for this year’s run with 2,308 representing 100 nationalities starting on Friday morning. Of these 2,285 finished the race with the youngest 15 years young and the oldest a sprightly 71.