RAK Half Marathon UAE, 13th February 2015
Despite the climate being unsuitable for endurance sport for a good portion of the year, there’s no shortage of fantastic races in the region. This one in the northern most emirate of Ras Al Khaimah claims to be the world’s fastest half marathon. You’re probably sick of hearing about the world’s tallest, biggest, longest, etc. They’re certainly not the world’s most modest in this country but in this case, it’s probably justified. Both men’s and women’s world records have been broken here and the pan flat course attracts a world class field every year.
The route is an anti-clockwise loop around the coast with a couple of long out and back stretches, giving a good opportunity to see both the leaders and everyone behind you. Although, by the time pitiful mortals like me are on the second out and back, the leaders have long since finished!
The race has only been going since 2007 but it has grown to around 3000 entrants and is the second biggest event in the Gulf after the Dubai Marathon. The announcer at the start claimed that there were ninety nationalities competing which, for a relatively small field, is impressive but not surprising considering how multicultural the Emirates is. However, I’d say over 75% are British, Australian and American expats.
Marathon world record holder and 2012 winner Dennis Kimetto started us off and I set off at a 90 minute pace. I haven’t run that fast for anything longer than 10k in a long time and I was certainly feeling sluggish after my previous marathon shenanigans. Still, the course is ultra-flat and with many long, straight stretches, I settled into it after a few kilometers. When the leaders passed on the first out and back, I saw a drone following overhead, no doubt being piloted by someone in the lead car. Quite timely, as the government hosted a “Drones for Good” summit a week ago, rewarding entrepreneurs who could come up with the most innovative uses for them. I suppose cameramen who film the lead pack from the lead bike/car will soon be out of jobs!
The winner finished in 60:05. Compare that to last year when eight men finished under the hour; conditions must have been quite warm this time around. My priority was a sub 90 so I stuck to the 4:15/km pace but feeling good after 15km, kicked on and finished in 93rd place with a time of 1:28:48, just 16 seconds outside my PB.