Elite athletes have been dealt another major, coronavirus-induced blow with organisers of the rich Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon announcing the cancellation of this year’s race.
Meanwhile, this year’s edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon has been moved from February 13 to April 10, organisers have announced.
The annual RAK Half Marathon in the northern-most emirate of the United Arab Emirates was scheduled to be held on February 19 and had drawn the world’s top half marathon runners, including world record holders over the distance.
In a statement on Wednesday, organisers said the cancellation of this year’s race was in the best interest of the participants.
“After careful consideration, we have taken the decision to postpone the 15th edition of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, which was set to take place on February 19th, 2021 on Al Marjan Island, to 2022,” the statement released on the race website said.
“This is a necessary measure to protect the well-being of our participants, spectators and staff in light of the ever-evolving situation.
“All registered participants will receive a refund, as per the cancellation policy and, as gesture of gratitude and a thank you for ongoing support, all UAE registered runners will receive their race pack and race medal.
“The safety of all visitors to Ras Al Khaimah remains our utmost priority and we are very grateful for the understanding and support of the event participants at this time,” the statement added, asking those who had planned to travel to the emirate to “continue to enjoy the diverse beach, adventure and culture on offer in the Emirate.”
Last month, organisers of the RAK Half Marathon named a stellar field that included the top three finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions of last October’s World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, along with London Marathon champions – Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei and Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata.
Also programmed to return to Ras Al Khaimah was multiple world half marathon and cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor who has been away from the roads for one year due to injury.
The race had attracted four of the five fastest half marathoners on the world rankings alongside the three fastest women.
Kenya’s 5,000 metres track world champion Hellen Obiri was also expected to make her half marathon debut at RAK.
Obiri, also the world cross country champion, had a feel of the roads in winning the Barcelona 10-kilometre race late last year in 30 minutes and 53 seconds.
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In Lagos, Access Bank Lagos City Marathon Project Consultant Bukola Olopade said in a statement that the race has been pushed to April “because of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“On behalf of our Host City, Lagos, the Center of Excellence, our Headline Sponsor, Access Bank and other partners and sponsors, we sincerely apologize for having to postpone our race from February 13, 2021 to April 10, 2021 because of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic which has forced the cancellation or postponement of sporting events worldwide especially mass participation events like marathons and road races,” he said.
Olopade further said “it was agreed that the race should be moved since most organisations are on lockdown till end of February.”
“Organisers of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon were inundated with calls from Athletics Federations around the world and elite runners who wanted to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Lagos since the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon has been approved as Olympic Games qualifier by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the World Athletics,” he said in the statement.
“Our new date of April 10 still falls within the IOC deadline. Runners have till May 31, 2021 to qualify for the Olympic Games.”
Kenyans dominated the men’s race in last year’s RAK Half Marathon with Kibiwott Kandie winning in 58 minutes and 58 seconds as Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh won the women’s race in a world record time of 1:04:31.
Lagos has also been a good hunting ground for Kenyan road runners with David Barmasai and Sharon Cherop winning the men’s and women’s titles.