The RAK Half-Marathon in the United Arab Emirates turned out to be one of the best events of 2020, partly because it was one of the few big races of the year, but also because it saw incredible performances. Organizers have released a shortlist of runners set to compete at the 2021 event, scheduled for February 19, and it looks like the RAK Half could once again be one of the best races of the year. Ababel Yeshaneh and Brigid Kosgei, the top two women from 2020, will return for another battle, and reigning men’s champion Kibiwott Kandie will face off against Jacob Kiplimo, who is coming off his first world half-marathon title.
Battle of the record-holders
At the 2020 RAK Half, Yeshaneh and Kosgei ran together for the majority of the race. It wasn’t until around the 15K mark that Yeshaneh made her move, which proved to be the difference-maker. She pulled away from Kosgei, the marathon world record-holder, and ran to the women’s half-marathon world record of 1:04:31. Kosgei finished 18 seconds back, still running under the previous world record in a time of 1:04:49.
Both women will be back in 2021, and both will be as hungry as ever to take the win after having few racing opportunities this year. Also, with so many spring race postponements (such as the Boston and London marathons, which have both been moved from April to the fall), the RAK Half could very well be the most competitive race either woman will run ahead of the Tokyo Games, making it all the more important to perform well and start the Olympic year off with a confidence-booster.
ababel birhane set the new half marathon world record 64.31!!
Kosgei in 2nd place 64.48 under the previous world record ???
— Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon (@rakhalfmarathon) February 21, 2020
Along with Yeshaneh and Kosgei, American Sara Hall will reportedly head to the UAE for the race. Hall has had a tremendous season, which included a half-marathon PB of 1:08:58 in Houston in January and a marathon best of 2:22:01 at the London Marathon in October. She still has one race left in 2020 at the Marathon Project in Arizona, and then she’ll shift her focus to the RAK Half. While Hall likely won’t be able to match the pace of the leaders in the February race, she will still have plenty of competitors to work with, and there’s no reason she can’t challenge Molly Huddle‘s American half-marathon record of 1:07:25.
Kandie vs. Kiplimo
On the two occasions Kandie and Kiplimo have raced each other, the two young runners produced thrilling finishes. Their first encounter came in late 2019 at a 15K road race in Brazil. Thinking he had broken Kandie and won the race, Kiplimo slowed at the finish of the 15K race and began to celebrate. Unfortunately for him, Kandie was far from broken, and he sprinted past Kiplimo to steal the win by one second. Ten months later, the two met again, this time at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Poland. Once again, Kiplimo pulled away from Kandie, but he managed to maintain the gap and run to the win in 58:49, five seconds ahead of Kandie, who won silver.
After winning the RAK Half in 2020 in 58:58, Kandie will be looking for his second straight victory in the UAE, but with Kiplimo lining up beside him, nothing is guaranteed. The only sure thing is the race will be fast and entertaining, and if it’s anything like their previous meetings, it will have a tight finish, too.