In a potential preview for what could be a very fast spring marathon season, five runners broke the 60 minute barrier at the RAK half-marathon on Friday.
The seventh edition of the race in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates was won by Kenyan Geoffery Kipsang in an incredible 58:54. He held just a two second lead through the second half of the race, staving off fellow countryman Stanley Biwott. Geoffery Mutai dipped under the 59-minute mark as well, taking the last spot on the podium in 58:58. This was the first time in history that three runners all went sub-59 minutes in one race.
The women’s race proved equally as fast. Four women broke 1:07, which was another historic first for a half-marathon. Kenyan Lucy Kabuu won in 1:06:09, which is the second fastest half-marathon ever. Not surprisingly, Mary Keitany’s world record was set at RAK in 2011. Fellow Kenyans Priscah Jeptoo and Rita Jeptoo finished second and third.
The flat, fast desert course was aided by windless, cool 13C start temperature. The top ten finishers in both the men’s and women’s races were dominated entirely by Kenyans and Ethiopians.
Geoffery Kipsang made news last week after formally announcing he was moving over to road racing permanently with the RAK half-marathon. He is the reigning world junior cross-country champion, and withdrew his name from defending his title in Poland in March. This caused quite the stir coupled with the withdrawal of Ellud Kipchoge, who is planning a jump to the marathon.
The race was a prelude of sorts for April’s London Marathon. Mutai, Biwott and Feyisa Lilesa, who finished fourth at RAK, will all face off in what could be the deepest field in marathon history. Kabuu, Priscah Jeptoo and Florence Kiplagat, who finished fifth at RAK, will also square off once more in London. All look to be in fine form, but will be challenged by some stiff competition.