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World Half Marathon and Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir is one of the 40 elite athletes for the RAK Half Marathon on Saturday. Image Credit: Supplied

Ras Al Khaimah: More than 40 world-class athletes run alongside thousands of amateur runners in the annual 17th Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon to be held on Saturday.

The elite field is one of the strongest ever assembled in the history of the event with Olympic, World and European Champions, Marathon Major Winners and former World Record holders all vying for a share of the Dh1.2 million ($326,000) total prize and bonus money.

As well as elites chasing record times over the 21.1km half marathon distance, amateur runners from around the world will also compete in the four-race event, with all runs taking place on routes on Al Marjan Island, a unique cluster of four coral-shaped islands in a man-made archipelago.

Incredible line-up

The half marathon has attracted the likes of World Half Marathon and Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, 2022 World Marathon Champion and 2023 New York City Marathon Champion Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia, and Germany’s European 5,000m Champion Konstanze ‘Koko’ Klosterhalfen.

Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said: “The Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon taking place this weekend is set to be the most exciting yet in its 17-year history, with incredible elite athletes participating.

“The sporting event continues to attract the biggest names while keeping its community spirit and attracting more participants each year from the UAE and all around the world. From Olympic champions to enthusiastic children running alongside their parents, this event provides the right opportunity to showcase Ras Al Khaimah as an outstanding sporting destination while also being a leader in outdoor and adventure focused tourism.”

New-look course

All the elite runners have arrived on Al Marjan Island eager to get to grips with the new-look course. And with the Paris Olympics just five months away, the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon is ideal preparation for the elites who will represent their countries in the summer. For Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir, it is also a chance to reacquaint herself with a place where she broke the women’s half marathon world record in 2017.

It is little wonder that the elite women are so keen to run in Ras Al Khaimah — no other half marathon in the world has seen the women’s world record or world best broken more often than in Ras Al Khaimah. It has happened three times (2011, 2017 and 2020) since world half marathon records were first listed in 1984.

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Paula Radcliffe, Race Director Peter Connerton, Alka Winter, VP Destination Marketing & Communications, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, with elite runners Koko Klosterhalfen, Peres Jepchirchir, and Tamirat Tola at the pre-event press briefing. Image Credit: Supplied

Great deal of interest

“I’m very excited to be with the best runners in the world at the world’s fastest half marathon,” said European golden girl Koko Klosterhalfen, who will be making only her second appearance at the half marathon distance having won on her debut in Valencia in 2022. “I won’t focus on the result but just concentrate on running my best and take it from there.”

While a great deal of interest will be on the women’s race, Ethiopian fans will be keen to see the first appearance in Ras Al Khaimah of former Marathon World Champion Tamirat Tola, who broke a 12-year-old course record when winning the New York City Marathon just three months ago.

“I’m happy to come here for the first time as it’s a flat and fast course for me,” he said. “I set my personal best seven years ago (59:37) so I certainly aim to go under 59 minutes on Saturday.”

Radcliffe to prove commentary

Three-time world half marathon champion Paula Radcliffe, who will provide expert TV commentary when the race is broadcast live around the world, added: “I’ve read so much about this race so it’s a great thrill for me to be here for the first time. The race comes at the right time for the athletes and it’s a course that I’d love to have run in my prime — the fast, flat curves and gentle bends are a great test and won’t affect runners who are used to a lot of track work.”

As well as the half marathon, race day will also see runners competing in a 2km Family Fun Run, a 5km Road Race and, for the first time, a 10km Road Race. The half marathon will start at 7am, with the 5km/10km race at 9.30am and the 2km Family Fun Run at 10.30am.