Saud Al Qasimi attends half marathon race in Al Marjan Island

RAS AL KHAIMAH– H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, attended the 13th Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon which took place today at the new circuit of Al Marjan Island.

More than 3,600 runners, including 30 professional athletes, competed in the race.

Sheikh Saud said the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon Race had become an important event on the international sports calendar.

“We look forward to hosting various sporting events in Ras Al Khaimah that would enhance the emirate’s reputation as an ideal destination for sports and leisure tourism,” he said.

Sheikh Saud toured the new racing circuit on the island and was briefed about the various recreational facilities, designed for family members of all ages. He thanked the organising committee for the efforts to make the event a resounding success.

The race saw a record 11 men breaking the one-hour barrier, while three women battled for supremacy in a finishing sprint that put them all under 66 minutes.

The race began with a small but select women’s elite group setting off in a conservative fashion, passing the 10km mark in 31:02. Their male pacers maintained a steady if not lightning-quick tempo past the 15km mark (46:43) by which time the group had been reduced to five, including reigning IAAF world half marathon champion, Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia, and her compatriot and debutante, Senbere Teferi.

With a male pacer dictating the tempo, the group was reduced to three by the 20km mark (62:26), Zeineba Yimer ensuring it would be an Ethiopian clean-sweep of the podium. Despite the accelerating tempo over the last kilometre, none of the three was prepared to commit early, and in the ensuing sprint for the line, it was proven track specialist Teferi, who proved the strongest.

Her winning margin of just one metre from Gudeta, resulted in the fastest women’s debut in history, with her more heralded opponent clocking the same time of 65:45. Yimer’s third-place time of 65:46 ensured all three produced huge personal bests, each breaking the 66-minute barrier for the first time.

The elite men’s pack, despite a stronger field in depth � thirteen men on the start line had broken the magical one-hour mark in the past � started in similarly reluctant fashion, passing the 5km mark in 14:13, as opposed to a target of 13:55. An acceleration to 10km in 28:10 (13:57 split) did not get the large pack of seventeen much closer to the planned schedule, but there were fireworks to come.

Soon after the half-way mark, 21-year-old Abadi Hadis of Ethiopia, fastest in the field and proven track performer, had seen enough. He accelerated so viciously that the large pack reduced to single file within the space of one hundred metres, and his 2:40 split for the fourteenth kilometre, set the race ablaze.

By the time they cleared 15km (41:48), it was down to just Hadis and Kenya’s Stephen Kiprop, who when just 19 in 2018, had one of the most spectacular opening seasons in history, producing three sub-one hour clockings.

Try as he might, Hadis could not shake off Kiprop, at times zig-zagging across the road while the Kenyan hid in his slipstream as if glued in position. The frustration for Hadis, contesting only his third-ever half marathon, was palpable, but he stuck gamely to his task, so much so that by the 18km mark the pair had opened a gap of nine seconds on the chasing duo of Switzerland’s Julien Wanders and Fikadu Haftu.

As they crossed 20km (55:46), Hadis had thrown down a devastating second 10km segment of 27:36, but still could not shake off his younger nemesis, while behind them the challenge for the final podium spot see-sawed between Wanders and Haftu, neither giving any quarter and their battle carrying them towards an eventual spectacular finish.

Only inside the last kilometre did a small gap appear behind Hadis, and the immediate impression was that his persistent efforts would be rewarded. Even one hundred metres from the line, he led by two to three metres, but Kiprop was not done yet. Displaying raw power and finding yet another level of reserve, the Kenyan surged past Hadis fifty metres from home to breast the tape in an event equalling record time of 58:42 (Bedan Karoki’s record time of 2018 was on the old course).

Hadis looked broken as he crossed the line two seconds down, but it was his surging determination through the second half which led to astonishing times in depth behind them. In third, Fikadu Haftu (59:08) shaded the spectacular European Record of Julien Wanders (59:13,) his fourth continental record inside twelve months, with both Morris Gachaga (59:22) and Mule Wasihun (59:34) behind him, ensuring the top six set or equalled their personal bests.

The first eleven men broke the one-hour barrier, with Kaan Kigen Ozbilen of Turkey (59:48) in eleventh setting a new Turkish record. It is the first time in history that more than nine men have broken the sixty-minute barrier.

At the end of the race, Sheikh Saud gave away prizes to the winners.

Source: Emirates News Agency