By Chris Lotsbom
(06-Feb) -- On Wednesday, organizers of the RAK Half-Marathon announced deep fields on both the men's and women's sides for the seventh edition of the historically fast race, to be held on Friday, February 15, in the United Arab Emirates. Headlining the list of entrants are ten men who have run under 60 minutes for the distance, including Geoffrey Mutai, the reigning World Marathon Majors champion, and Stephen Kibet, the seventh fastest half marathoner of all time. On the women's side will be 2012 Olympic Marathon silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo and 2012 Boston Marathon winner Sharon Cherop.
Mutai, 31, returns to the city of Ras Al Khaimah to race in his first half-marathon of 2013. Three years ago, the Kenyan timed 59:43 for the top spot, defeating Tadese Tola and Titus Masai. This year, he will be racing in preparation for April's Virgin London Marathon.
Noted for its fast course, the RAK Half Marathon has produced 19 sub-one hour times on the men's side in the first six years of the event. The course record of 58:52 was set in 2009 by current marathon world record holder Patrick Makau.
Joining Mutai on the line is Kibet, who finished fifth at the IAAF Half Marathon World Championships last year, as well as Emmanuel Mutai, the 2011 Virgin London Marathon champion. Included on the start list are sub-60 minute half-marathoners Ezekiel Chebii, Feyisa Lelisa, Pius Maiyo Kirop, Geoffrey Kipsang, Joel Kimurer, Stanley Biwott, Daniel Chebii, and Getu Feleke. Track specialist Micah Kogo, who earned an Olympic bronze medal at the 10,000m in Beijing, will also be competing.
Though course and world record holder Mary Keitany will not be racing or defending her title (she is pregnant with her second child), a number of notable women will be on the start line. Along with aforementioned marathon specialists Jeptoo and Cherop, Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse, a double Olympic silver medalist from 2008, and 2:19:34 marathoner Lucy Wangui Kabuu will vie for the victory. Fastest in the field is 25-year-old Florence Kiplagat of Kenya, who boasts a personal best of 66:38. Making her RAK Half Marathon debut will be Ethiopia's Meselech Melkamu.