By John kwoba
NAIROBI, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Berlin marathon champions Geoffrey Mutai and Dubai marathon silver medalist Lucy Kabuu will headline the elite field at this year's RAK Half-Marathon in the United Arab Emirates.
The event, seventh edition, which will be run on Feb.15, will be the only event Mutai will contest ahead of his planned run at the London Marathon in April.
"I have to return to Ras and see if I can defend the title. I have not been in good shape since running in Berlin last September. I want to see how my body will react, especially against such a strong field," said Mutai, Friuday in Nairobi.
Headlining the list of entrants are ten men who have run under 60 minutes for the distance, including Mutai, the reigning World Marathon Majors champion, and Stephen Kibet, the seventh fastest half marathoner of all time. On the women's side will be Kabuu, Olympic Marathon silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo and Boston Marathon winner Sharon Cherop.
The still-standing women's World record of 65:50 was set here in 2011 by Mary Keitany, while the men's course record is 58:52 by Patrick Makau in 2009.
Included on the start list are sub-60 minute half-marathoners Ezekiel Chebii, Feyisa Lelisa, Pius Maiyo Kirop, Geoffrey Kipsang, Joel Kimurer, Stanley Biwott, Daniel Chebii, and Getu Feleke. Track specialist Micah Kogo, who earned an Olympic bronze medal at the 10,000m in Beijing, will also, be competing.
Though course and world record holder Mary Keitany will not be racing or defending her title - she is pregnant with her second child - a number of notable women will be on the start line.
With a 66:38 personal best, the fastest woman on paper for this year's race is 2009 World cross champion and 2010 World half-marathon champion Florence Kiplagat.
The 25-year-old boasts great 10,000m speed (Kenyan record-holder with 30:11.53) as well as a Marathon runner's strength - she won Berlin in 2011 in 2:19:44.
The total prize and bonus monies offered of more than $250,000 don't do any harm of course, but the RAK Half has never been easy and worthy champions are two of the few certainties.