I love this half-marathon. Every detail, from the view of the Hajar Mountains at sunrise to the Arab pipeband to the presence of royalty at the start & finish, it's all fantastic. The course is flat and long, 13 miles past shops and the Grand Mosque and lines of Pakistani labourers in their plaid skirt-like dhoti, most watching blankly, some filming with their mobile phones (I waved to the cameras), and one cluster cheering wildly, jubilantly.
Most years, the RAK Half means a 3:30am wake-up so that I can get to the bus in Dubai, but this year we booked a cheapo hotel well in advance and cruised out the night before. This was a brilliant move. Not only were we able to walk to the start at a reasonable hour, but we were also then able to enjoy the breakfast and facilities after the run. Ahh, hot shower and yogurt & pastries. This also meant that James was able to see the start for the first time, since he usually drove out after I had caught the early bus, and as official team picture-taker, he captured all of the scenes that I've always wanted to photograph.
Like the band! In previous years, they were wearing long white Arab dress but they've since upgraded to fancy uniforms. Always a favourite moment to hear the band play, they're really good.
He also got a photo of the VIP stands - the man facing the camera in the front row is the ruler of this Emirate, and it has always impressed me that every single year, he has cheered on the runners at the start AND he has still been in the bleachers as I've crossed the finish line, wayyyyyy past the elite runners' finish. Sheikh Saud, that is really great!
The sunrise over the Hajar Mountains.
The elite runners sprinting at the finish. This year's contingent included the man who has run the fastest marathon ever. It's a huge race for elite runners because the prize money is massive, including a 125,000 Dirham bonus for a world record, which Mary Keitany won the first time I did this race. Beautiful runners, absolutely perfect, efficient strides.
One of the crazy costumes.
And here she comes! I had a decent run, with my time falling pretty much exactly in the middle of all my times ever, not my best, not my worst. In the first 5 km, I was running a steady 6:30min/km pace, and I pretty much kept that going for the whole distance. The conditions were nice, cool and none of last year's hot wind and sandstorm, and I just plodded along to the finish. I had some good energy for a strong finish, and felt like a million bucks when I saw James near the finish - there he is! I'm almost done!
Edited to add: I love this recap of the race, "athletes smoked the flat desert course in Ras Al Khaimah at the 7th RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates producing sensational results. The top-3 men — Kenyans Geoffrey Kipsang, Stanley Biwott and Geoffrey Mutai — all broke 59 minutes, the first time that has ever happened in a single race. The top-4 women all broke 67 minutes, including winner Lucy Kabuu of Kenya, whose 1:06:09 was the #2 time in history."