With sub-60 minute times posted in the past, the Ras-al-Kaimah (RAK) Half Marathon is marketed as the fastest half in the world, and it certainly lived up to that as I came in under my target time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, a personal best by a long margin.
The day started very early indeed, with a 3.15am alarm and a very bleary early breakfast before loading up the car and scooting off to make three pick-ups in and around the Marina. My fellow runners for the day were Jan, a fellow tri-Pirate, Katia, a friend whom I met during the wadi camping trip, and Lauren, who I have been running with in preparation for today and, in eight weeks, her first London Marathon. The drive itself was simple and traffic free meaning that we arrived with good time to spare. As such, there was time aplenty to make the obligatory loo stop – an essential pre-race ritual, as I am sure any athlete would agree – as well as get some more breakfast, and even dash back to the car to apply the all-important Vaseline. Those of you who may choose to snigger at the mention of said lubricant would think again if you had just run 21km, as it is, in my opinion, one of the most useful and important bits of athletic kit there is, saving many a runner, and cyclist alike, from suffering painful chafing. There, I said it: chafing.
The RAK half is very well organised, with a dedicated baggage drop, organised such that belongings are dropped off in the official bags provided, and even post-race printed certificates on offer. Despite the delayed start to the race, meaning that we did have to endure longer than was necessary of being literally deafened by the announcer, everyone was in great spirits as the conditions for the race were perfect: little to no breeze, cool temperatures and a nice wide, flat course, clearly marked and with plenty of drinks stops along the way.
Once the race got under way, I chose to get into the rhythm with The Rolling Stones greatest hits album, in preparation for their gig next week, and quickly established a good comfortable rhythm, finding the first twelve or so kilometers actually pretty cruisey. In fact, I found myself overtaking fellow triathletes that I didn’t really feel as though I had any place passing, which did make me feel a little concerned at one point that maybe I was pushing a little too hard early on and that I might have been due a brick wall to hit. As it turned out that was not the case and I maintained a relatively steady average pace of 4:20 per km right the way up until the 14th kilometer, before stepping on the gears in order to still be in stead to hit my target time.
The first 5km were comfortable and I clocked 25minutes for that – a pretty standard, unimpressive performance. The second 5km, taking us to 10km, was similarly comfy and was, in fact, faster, being completed in a little over 21 minutes. Looking at my splits I did actually get faster and faster as the race progressed, with the third 5km being even quicker at a little over 20 minutes, and the final 5km being run in under 20 minutes, which I am so pleased with. At about 16km I just put my head down, gritted my teeth and went for it, knowing that I had to dig really deep in order to bring home the sub 90 minute time I was so desperate to achieve. The final 700m were tough – I mean, real tough – and I put everything in to cross the line no less than 8 seconds under the 1 hour 30 minute target. To say I was elated is an understatement. The result was a huge vindication of the merits of all the training to date and having a good, solid race preparation and plan in place, something that I am realising more and more to be so important.
The post-race meet up with friends, who had all also run really great times, was awesome fun, and after getting the essential post-race photos, we all piled in the car to head over to the Tower Links golf course for a hearty breakfast to fortify us for the journey back to Dubai, and a well earned afternoon of doing very little other than putting my feet up.
A great race and a fantastic personal result. I am feeling even more buoyed and confident for Lake Tahoe in September. I will just need to ensure I keep up a high level of running fitness over the summer. I would certainly recommend anyone to sign up and do the RAK Half Marathon, whether it be your first ever half or you’re a seasoned runner.
Finish time (net) = 1:29:52
Finish position (net) = 130 (out of a total field of 1831 runners who started the race (in the top 7%)
Gender position (net) = 105th
73rd out of 930 UAE residents.
59th out of 613 UAE male residents.
6th of 45 UAE runners in my specific age group, and 34th out of 270 Brits racing.