Stephen Kiprop wins the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon (© Victah Sailer / organisers)
Kenya’s Stephen Kiprop continued where he left off last year by winning the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on Friday (8) in an equal course record of 58:42, moving to joint sixth on the world all-time list. In a close women’s race, Senbere Teferi won in 1:05:45, the fastest debut half marathon time in history, with just one second separating the top three finishers.
The race broke new ground as it was the first half marathon in history in which 11 men finished inside an hour. It was also the first time that five women had finished within 1:06:30.
The men’s field got off to a steady start with a large lead group passing through five kilometres in 14:13 and 10 kilometres in 28:10. 15 men were still in the front pack at that stage, all operating well within the required schedule for a sub-60-minute finish.
The pace continued to increase, though, and by 15 kilometres – reached in 41:48 – Kiprop and Ethiopia’s Abadi Hadis had broken away from the rest of the pack. Ethiopia’s Fikadu Haftu, Switzerland’s Julien Wanders and Kenya’s Morris Gachanga formed a chase trio about eight seconds adrift of the leaders.
Hadis and Kiprop gradually increased their lead in the closing stages. After passing 20 kilometres in 55:46, it became clear they could challenge Bedan Karoki’s course record of 58:42 set last year. Haftu and Wanders, meanwhile, had dropped Gachanga by this point and were 17 seconds behind the lead duo with a larger chasing pack not too far behind.
Kiprop, still just 19 years of age, proved to have the stronger finish and outkicked Hadis to win in 58:42, the fastest time in history by a teenager. It was another big step forward for Kiprop, who first broke through last year when winning the Venloop Half Marathon in 59:44 on his debut at the distance. He went on to win the Usti Nad Labem Half Marathon in 59:41 and reduced his PB to 59:21 when finishing fifth in Valencia.
Hadis, the world cross-country bronze medallist, finished second in 58:44, tying the PB he set last year in Valencia.
Haftu finished third in 59:08 while Wanders placed fourth in 59:13, taking 19 seconds off Mo Farah’s European record. In fifth place, Gachanga matched his finishing position from last year but was rewarded with a PB of 59:22.
Fewer athletes featured in the early lead pack of the women’s race, but the podium places were hotly contested.
A group of six women passed through five kilometres in 15:32 and maintained their pace through 10 kilometres, reached in 31:02. Teferi was one of four Ethiopian women in the pack along with world half marathon champion Netsanet Gudeta, Zeineba Yimer and Degitu Azimeraw. Kenya’s Valary Jemeli Aiyabei and Paskalia Kipkoech were also among the early leaders, but the latter began to drift off the pace at about the half-way stage.
Aiyabei and the Ethiopian quartet went through 15 kilometres in 46:43 while Kipkoech trailed by about 50 seconds, now running alongside former world half marathon record-holder Peres Jepchirchir, who was competing internationally for the first time since having a baby.
Just a few kilometres later, the race had become a three-woman contest between Teferi, Gudeta and Yimer. Having done so since the start, they continued to run shoulder-to-shoulder until the very end when 2015 world 5000m silver medallist Teferi was able to edge ahead just enough to claim victory in 1:05:45.
Teferi made her marathon debut last year in Dubai and withdrew from the New Delhi Half Marathon later in 2018, but this was her first standalone and complete half marathon race.
Gudeta, who finished one place behind Teferi at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships, was given the same finishing time in second place, a 16-second improvement on the PB she set when winning the world half marathon title last year.
Yimer finished a close third in 1:05:46 while Azimeraw and Aiyabei finished fourth and fifth respectively in 1:06:07 and 1:06:14. The top five women all set lifetime bests.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
1 Stephen Kiprop (KEN) 58:42
2 Abadi Hadis (ETH) 58:44
3 Fikadu Haftu (ETH) 59:08
4 Julien Wanders (SUI) 59:13
5 Morris Gachanga (KEN) 59:22
6 Mule Wasihun (ETH) 59:34
7 Daniel Kipchumba (KEN) 59:36
8 Amedework Walelegn (ETH) 59:39
9 Abel Kipchumba (KEN) 59:40
Shadrack Kiminning (KEN) 59:42
1 Senbere Teferi (ETH) 1:05:45
2 Netsanet Gudeta (ETH) 1:05:45
3 Zeineba Yimer (ETH) 1:05:46
4 Degitu Azimeraw (ETH) 1:06:07
5 Valary Aiyabei (KEN) 1:06:14
6 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 1:07:36
7 Paskalia Kipkoech (KEN) 1:07:38
8 Naom Jebet (KEN) 1:08:19
9 Gerda Steyn (RSA) 1:12:35
10 Anne-Mari Hyrylainen (FIN) 1:13:40