A horde of Kenyan elite athletes will take a shot at the world record when the 11th edition of the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon is held Friday in the United Arab Emirates.
World Half Marathon silver medallist Bedan Karoki, who will be competing in his eighth half marathon race, said the strong field in the race makes it possible for the seven-year-old half marathon record to go.
The World Indoor 3,000m bronze medallist Augustine Choge, who will be on his third outing over the distance, reckoned that ideal weather could very well determine if a world record is set.
The enticing men's field is dotted with eight Kenyans, two of them having ran under 59 minutes; Solomon Yego (58:44) and Stephen Kibet (58:54). The 2015 Paris Marathon champion Kenya's Stanley Biwott (59:36) returns to RAK after his second-place finish last year and in 2013.
Amsterdam Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru, who set a PB of 59:20 when winning the Prague Half Marathon last year, is another athlete who will be heading to the London Marathon after contesting the RAK Half Marathon.
Eritrean Zersenay Tadese holds the World Half Marathon record of 58 minutes and 23 seconds set in Lisbon on March 21, 2010.
The fairly flat RAK course has only produced one world half marathon record during the inaugural race in 2007 where the late Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya clocked 58:53. Wanjiru bettered it a month later with a new time of 58:33 at The Hague.
Tadese would then obliterate that record in Lisbon.
"It's a strong field but it will depend how we shall wake up and how the race will unfold," said Karoki, who ran personal best of 59:14 when winning the 2015 Copenhagen Half Marathon.
"Personally, I have prepared well and I'm going for my personal best."
"A world record will be a bonus for me," said Karoki, the 2015 World Cross Country silver medallist. Karoki warmed up to RAK event with a successful defence of his Discovery Cross Country title in Eldoret two weeks ago.
"It will be a fast race considering the experienced field. The course is also fairly flat. Good times are possible if we won't run against the wind," said Choge, who has personal best 1:00:01 from his third place finish at Delhi Half Marathon in November last year.
While Karoki is preparing for his marathon debut in London on April 23, Choge will turn his focus on the National Cross Country due February 18 in Nairobi and World Cross Country planned for March 26 in Kampala.
Kenya's former World marathon record holder Patrick Makau holds the RAK Half Marathon course record of 58.52 from his successful title defence in 2009.
The Kenyans will face Eritrea's Nguse Amlosom, who finished third last year and Bahrain's Abraham Cheroben.
Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong, who finished sixth last year, faces a battle against Mary Keitany, who holds the course record of 1:05:50 which was also a world record in 2011. Others in the race are three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and World Half Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir.
The women are targeting Kenya's Florence Kiplagat's world record time of 1:05:09 set in Barcelona in 2015.