x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Thousands turn out for the RAK half marathon

The race was won by Ethiopian sprinter Lelisa Desisa who made it to the finish line in 59 minutes and 36 seconds

Elite runners from Africa lead the way at the start of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Elite runners from Africa lead the way at the start of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Fady Wakil and Raya Assily knew they were signing up for the long run when they married recently.

The newlyweds travelled from Abu Dhabi be among the 2,500 competitors running more than 21 kilometres in Friday’s RAK Half Marathon.

Fady, 34, and Raya, 33, were running as a team with their friend Andrew Coye, 27.

“This is the first time we ran as a team,” said Fady, a Lebanese expatriate who finished in an hour and 35 minutes. “We got here last night.

“It was a beautiful race and a nice course. Event organisers had provided plenty of water every couple of kilometres.”

He said he and Raya had been training together and motivating each other for four months.

Families and friends braved the chilly morning to cheer on their loved ones as they took off at 7.20. Of the runners from more than 90 nationalities, the youngest was 15 years old and the oldest 67.

Anja Schwerin, 38, a seasoned runner, said she had run a personal best.

“I managed to take more than two minutes off from my previous race,” said the German expatriate, who finished in an hour and 30 minutes. “It was cold when I started but I quite liked it.”

Sunil Nair, 46, praised the route, part of which was through mangroves.

“It was very scenic,” Sunil said. “The organisers had also done a good job of providing plenty of water through the route.”

Barbara Wernicke, 39, came with her eight-month-old daughter Merissa to watch husband Robert run.

“This is my husband’s eighth marathon race,” Ms Wernicke said.

Several roads were cordoned off to make way for the runners, who ran through highways, bylanes and mangroves in the emirate.

The half marathon was won by the Ethiopian runner and last year’s Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa, 24, who made it to the finish line in 59 minutes and 36 seconds.

He was followed by Eritrean Nguse Amlosom a mere three seconds later.

“This isn’t my best record,” said Desisa, in his first UAE long-distance event. “I did better in the marathon in New Delhi in 2012.

“If there had been a pacemaker I would have finished a little earlier.”

Desisa said the run was practice for his next race, in April. “It has helped me prepare for the London Marathon.”

Also known as the world’s fastest half-marathon, the three official fastest times for women have been set in RAK.

Wilson Kiprop, 27, a Kenyan who finished in 59 minutes and 43 seconds, said he was not disappointed to have finished third.

“You have to accept if you are not first and have to be happy,” said Kiprop, also a first-time runner in the event. “It is more important to know why you are here.”

The RAK Half Marathon, in its eighth year, saw eight men finish under 60 minutes.

“Every year, we manage to break some record,” said Bassil Zahr, sports and media marketing manager for the race.

“It is not surprising that so many people finished so close to each other.”

Doping control officers from the International Association of Athletics Federation were at the race to conduct urine tests on athletes.

“We do random selection depending on their places and running time,” said Dr Gorodilova Elena, one of the officers.

“We wait for sometime after the race to do the tests as they sweat a lot. It takes a week for the results to come as we do a complicated analysis.”

Dr Elena said the analyses would be done in an accredited laboratory in Paris.

pkannan@thenational.ae

This article was changed on February 16, to correct that the men’s half marathon record was not broken by Desisa on Friday.