Where Your Dreams Become Reality
RAK HALF FIELD STRENGTHENS YET FURTHER
Marathon stars Goumri and Rothlin join RAK Half line-up
Ras Al Khaimah February 7th, 2009
The men's field in the third edition of the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon, now just two weeks away, has grown even stronger with the addition of two significant names, each aiming to sharpen up in preparation for his spring marathon effort: Morocco's Abderrahim Goumri, the sixth fastest marathon runner in history, has thrown his hat in to the fray, as has Switzerland's Viktor Rothlin, Europe's fastest marathon runner of 2008 and IAAF World Championship bronze medalist in 2007.
Both men, now regarded very much as marathon specialists, are targeting the London Marathon on April 26th as the main spring priority, but equally both can look to RAK with realistic expectation of a personal best at the half marathon distance.
Goumri's credentials as a track, cross country and marathon performer are of the highest calibre, most notably notching up stadium bests of 12:50 for 5,000m and 27:02 for 10,000m, before moving to the marathon in 2007. Ironically, from his six marathon starts, the two disappointing results have been in championship events, the now 32 year old failing to finish in the 2007 IAAF World Championships and placing 20th in last year's Olympic race after trying to match the searing early pace. Other than that, he has been a model of consistency in his relatively brief marathon career, with a second and third spot at the last two London Marathons and frustratingly, two consecutive runners up places at the last two New York races. He could rightly be called the 'Nearly Man' of the current marathon runner crop.
The likeable Goumri, who's third place time of 2:05:30 last year in London was a new Moroccan record, has a surprisingly slow best for the half marathon, something which he has every chance of correcting in RAK. Indeed, so intense has been his recent focus on the full marathon event, that his current best for the half distance was actually set during last April's London event, when sitting comfortably in the lead pack through half way. For an athlete of his ability, a three minute improvement on that 62:14 is not out of the question.
In contrast, 34 year old Swiss Viktor Rothlin has experienced the most astonishing rise to the upper echelons of the world marathon rankings in the last three seasons despite having been a 2:10 performer as long ago as 2001. Rothlin's form in 2006 (2nd European Champs), 2007 (3rd World Champs) and 2008 (6th Olympic Games) has made him a model of consistency and one of the few Europeans genuinely able to mix it with the best of Africa. Almost twelve months to the day prior to the coming RAK event, he won the Tokyo Marathon in a new Swiss record of 2:07:23, backing up a win in Zurich ten months earlier (2:08:20) that had itself been a giant step forward. Being self-coached clearly suits this late developer.
As one of those heading for April's packed London event, Rothlin will know full well that his current half marathon best of 62:16 may well be needed at just half way in the British capital, and that going in to the race with an improved 21.1km time will be of real psychological benefit. What will also help in this regard, are the hundreds of training miles clocked up in Kenya in the company of three time London winner Martin Lel. Rothlin who says he dreams with accuracy, his major race positions, is a man who prepares thoroughly for the African challenge.
Ever realistic however, starting with eleven men who have run under the hour for the half marathon, means the man from Kerns in central Switzerland will be under no illusion that a huge performance will be required just to place in the top ten in RAK on February 20th, even without the now withdrawn Hendrick Ramaala.
The RAK women's field has been improved too, with Ethiopia's consistent Dire Tune, the Boston Marathon winner of 2008, who set a world best for the One Hour run in Ostrava last June, added to the race. With a half marathon best of just 71:11, Tune like Goumri, is surely heading for a huge improvement over 13.1 miles. Morocco's Malika Asahssah, recent victor of the Marrakech Half Marathon in 69:54, has also been added.
The RAK Half Marathon takes place on Friday 20th February 2009.
Athletes compete for over $400,000 in prize money, making it the world's richest half marathon.
The bonus for a Half Marathon World Best, is $100,000.
The race has been awarded IAAF silver label status and is a full member of AIMS
The RAK Half Marathon is presented by Saqr Port and supported by TNT, Saucony, Isostar, Al Ain Mineral Water and The Cove Rotana. To know more about the race visit www.rakmarathon.org.