RAS AL KHAIMAH // Some of the world's top runners and many more amateurs were due out this morning for what has been called one of the world's top road races. This year's 21km RAK Half Marathon, starting outside Manar Mall, is expected to attract 2,600 runners, many taking part in relay teams of four. Last year's race was won by the Kenyan Patrick Makau in a time of 58min:52sec, the second-fastest half-marathon in history. The record of 58min:33sec was set three years ago by Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, likewise a Kenyan.
"Hopefully we're going to have a repeat of the last few years in terms of variety," said Nathan Clayton, the race director. He added, "This is never intended to be a race that showcases international elites solely. It's also all intended to be a race for the many thousands of runners in the UAE. As long as we achieve our goal that everyone comes and has a great fun time, we'll be content with that."
For local runners, it is a chance for all their training along the Corniche and racecourse to finally pay off. The RAK English Speaking School has more than a dozen teams registered. "I never ran before in my life," said Fahed Zarifa, 29, from Syria, who works for an outdoor adventure company. "It's just nice to be in this marathon to see what it is, how hard it is for me, and maybe I will participate in other marathons."
Michelle Leboutte, 31, a first-time relay runner, trained with her husband after watching previous events from the sidelines. "It's not that hard," she said. "Five kilometres isn't that much and it's supposed to be fun." The event will raise funds for the Flying Angel, a ship that supports seafarers who spend long periods away from their families, and the Gulf for Good Charity, a Dubai-based children's charity.