The place to be early in the roadracing year was the Persian Gulf, where two significant races made their marks on some all-time statistics.
A 6:00 a.m. start at the Dubai Marathon and resulting cool temperatures in the 50s on a course built for speed led to a rash of fast times.
On the men’s side, Mosinet Geremew (2:04:00 PR to move to No. 10 on the all-time world list) led a total of 7 of his fellow Ethiopians under 2:05 and the first 8 in the race notching lifetime bests.
A thrilling sprint at the end saw 5 behind Geremew within 15 seconds: Leul Gebrselassie 2:04:02, Tamirat Tola 2:04:06, Assefa Mengistu 2:04:06, Sisay Lemma 2:04:08 and Berhanu Legesse 2:04:15.
Overall, the race produced the fastest-ever marks-forplace in positions 3–7.
Coincidentally, the same stat applied to the women’s race, where Ethiopian-born athletes took the first 12 positions.
Roza Dereje, just 20, claimed the win after negative-splitting (1:10:17/1:09:10) a 2:19:17 that moved her to No. 7 on the alltime list.
Four women ran sub-2:20, a first in any race; the others were Feyse Tadesse 2:19:30 (for No. 10 ever), Yebrqual Melese 2:19:36 and Worknesh Degefa 2:19:53.
Even though both Geremew and Dereje set course records, meet coordinator Ahmad Al Kamali said he wants to see a WR next year.
“We need to bring more Kenyans now because they are crazy about the World Record,” he told gulfnews.com.
“They don’t care about stopping after 30km. This is the trick needed to break the World Record.”
In an early-February tradition, an elite cadre of the world’s best half-marathoners gather in the historic United Arab Emirates port city of Ra’s al Khaymah for what has become an annual crack at the all-time lists.
This year’s races didn’t disappoint, with Kenyans Bedan Muchiri (58:42) and Fancy Chemutai (64:52) establishing new course records.
The women set off first at dawn, accompanied by male pacers who set a steady 3:03 clip through the opening 7K, reached in 21:19, a 64:15 pace. This torrid tempo pared the lead group to 4 with WR holder Joyciline Jepkosgei and Caroline Chepkoech keeping pace with Chemutai and Mary Keitany.
The pace eased to 3:07 kilos and at 14K Jepkosgei, weakened by a bout of flu, was the first to falter. After 16 kilometers Chepkoech, who hyper-paced Keitany last April in London, led the way past the three timers stationed at 10M, recording a world best of 49:29.
Making a u-turn at 19K Chemutai and Keitany had pulled clear and were right on WR pace, but ran into a little headwind. Passing 20K in 61:33 the pace had slipped to 64:56 and Keitany moved to the front noting, “I was feeling the wind but I wanted to maintain the pace and achieve a PR.”
As the two, running amidst the two rabbits, lifted the pace to a sprint the much taller Chemutai powered away to stop the clock… a second too late with her 64:52 moving her to No. 2 on the all-time list. Keitany (64:55) became No. 3.
Overall, best-ever marks-forplace were set in positions 2–11 “I was really impressed with my performance today having bettered 65:00,” said Keitany. “I hope to train well and maintain a high pace like today in London.”
The men’s race also started fast with a dozen runners establishing the ante with a 27:48 opening 10K.
Muchiri took over from there, noting “I pushed the pace at 14K and the pack was down to 4, and around 19K that is when I decided to go.”
In successfully defending his title Muchiri (58:42) took more than a halfminute off his PR and moved to No. 4 on the all-time list. The 27-year-old Japanbased star has now bettered an hour for 5 straight years.
Six more runners beat the hour barrier, with Ethiopian Jemal Yimer 2nd in a debut-record 59:00.