AW promotion: Great weather and a super-fast course are among the attractions for runners entering the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February
Whether you are chasing a half-marathon PB or want to race 13.1 miles in preparation for a spring marathon, the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates is a perfect choice.
Statistically, it is the fastest half-marathon course in the world, whereas when it comes to the weather it takes place in fine (but not too warm) conditions which will be a welcome escape for British runners who have been training through the winter.
Taking place on February 8, it is well placed to fit in with spring marathon plans. It’s not all about the running either, as the Arabian Peninsula area where the event is held is a sight-seeing paradise. A time difference of only four hours from the UK also means it’s not difficult to travel to.
Tim Hutchings, the international runner-turned-commentator, has worked at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon for most of its history and says: “The Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon – also sometimes known after 12 years as the RAK Half – is one of the best kept secrets of the United Arab Emirates in terms of it being a wonderful “pre-spring marathon” preparatory race, for any level of runner.
“At the first Ras Al Khaimah Half in 2007, a young lad called Sammy Wanjiru blasted the dead-flat circuit in 58:53 – an unofficial world record – but the race was young and no drug testing was present, so that record was lost!”
Wanjiru went on to win Olympic marathon gold in Beijing in 2008 before sadly dying in 2011 aged only 24. But his presence at that inaugural event shows the quality of the race and the standard has been maintained ever since.
Hutchings continues: “Since 2007, the Ras Al Khaimah Half story has got better, and bigger. It now attracts almost 2500 starters, from just a few hundred initially. Dozens of elite men have run under 60 minutes on the gradually adjusted circuit, with many of the less fast runners focused on the glorious beaches as much as the race itself!
“Boasting four of the fastest women’s times ever, Kenya’s tiny Mary Keitany set a world record of 65:50 in 2011, followed in 2017 by compatriot Peres Jepchirchir’s 65:06 world record.
“Five times Keitany has used it as her pre-spring marathon preparation race – and with three titles a piece in London and New York, it is clearly perfect for elite and masses alike as a great long weekend away in the sun, and as a pipe-opener a few weeks before London, Paris, Boston, Brighton and other marathons.”
The event is ideal for families or training groups as the main race features team prizes, while there are additional shorter family events which youngsters can take part in. When not running, the area also offers great beaches and mountains to explore, not to mention, go-kart tracks, golf courses and the world’s longest zip line at nearby Jebel Jais.