Ababel Yeshaneh wins the RAK Half-Marathon
Ababel Yeshaneh wins the RAK Half-Marathon Image Credit: Organisers

Dubai: The line-up for the 15th Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon has been further boosted with the addition of some of the top distance runners to the already strong list of initial entrants.

The 15th edition of the ‘World’s Greatest Half Marathon’ has been scheduled to be held on Ras Al Khaimah’s Al Marjan Island on February 19 and some of the top names from the world of long distance running have confirmed along with those already announced at the end of last year.

World record holder and reigning champion Ababel Yeshaneh and Kibiwott Kandie have already confirmed their participation for the race next month along with some of the top racers including 2020 London Marathon champion Brigid Kosgei.

In the 2020 edition, Yeshaneh set a new world record for women with a time of 64.31 minutes, 20 seconds quicker than Joyciline Jepkosgei’s record that was set in 2017. Kandie had won with a time of 58.58 minutes, a bit slower than the course record of 58.42 minutes jointly held by Bedan Karoki (2018) and Stephen Kiprop (2019).

Former half marathon world record holder Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya will make a return in Ras Al Khaimah after spending more than a year away following an injury.

Kamworor, the 2011 World Junior Cross Country Champion and winner of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships three times in-a-row from 2014 to 2018, had rewritten the world record while winning the 2019 Copenhagen Half Marathon in a time of 58.01 minutes.

However, the two-time IAAF World Cross Country Championships winner, whose major achievements were two New York City Marathon crowns (in 2017 and 2019), had his half marathon time bettered by Kandie, Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo, Rhonex Kipruto and Alexander Mutiso during the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon.

Other male runners in the mix include Shura Kitata of Ethiopia, who also won the 2020 London Marathon along with fellow countryman and Ethiopian national half marathon champion, Jemal Yimer, who holds a personal best of 58.33 minutes.

Making his debut next month will be Kenyan-born Reuben Kiprop Kipyego. He recently achieved his personal best time of 2.04.12 at the 2020 Valencia Marathon. He had also won the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon in 2019, coming in ahead of several other strong competitors.

Joining this stellar line-up of top athletes will be Italians Yeman Crippa and Eyob Faniel, who will be expected to go head-to-head for the Italian National Record. Ethiopian-born Crippa is making his half marathon debut next month, and currently holds the Italian record in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 metres, while Faniel holds the Italian times in the Marathon and 10km distances.

In the women’s category, Hellen Obiri the reigning world outdoor champion in 5,000 metres will be making her RAK debut, and will be joined by European record holder Melat Kejeta of Germany, Namibia’s Helalia Johannes and South Africa’s Gerda Steyn, who had clocked her personal best of 1.10.55 last year in Ras Al Khaimah.

To ensure the safety of the participating elite athletes, organisers have put together a range of elite bubble procedures with all athletes required to undergo an initial PCR test on departure at the airport in their country of origin.

On arrival, they will also be subject to another PCR test and will be required to remain in isolation until the results are known. A certain area of the hotel will also be sequestered and dedicated to the elites, management and organisation teams for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Further, daily temperature and health checks will be undertaken to monitor the status of all involved.

Registration for the RAK Half Marathon will close in the next few days and there are less than 500 spots on offer in the non-elite race.

Organised by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) and RCS Sports and Events, the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon last year attracted 3,185 elite and amateur runners.