Students compete in World's Fastest Half Marathon

With the sun rising over the misty Hajar Mountains in the early hours of Feb. 14, just under 2,000 runners of 93 nationalities set off on the 8th ...

Feb 15, 2014

With the sun rising over the misty Hajar Mountains in the early hours of Feb. 14, just under 2,000 runners of 93 nationalities set off on the 8th annual Ras Al Khaimah half-marathon. The race, which winds its 21.1 kilometers through the small capital city of the northernmost emirate of the same name, bills itself as “the world’s fastest half-marathon” for its fast, flat track that has attracted world-class athletes and record-breaking races since its inception in 2007.
The records for both the men’s and women’s half-marathon times have been broken on this course; first by Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya in 2007 with a time of 58:53, and then by Mary Keitany, also of Kenya, in 2011 with a time of 1:05:50. Although the men’s record has since been broken, Keitany’s record remains the world’s fastest time for women.
This year, the fastest times were 59:36 and 1:07:02 for men and women respectively, run by Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo. While the times were not record-breaking themselves, eight men managed to cross the finish line in under 60 minutes, a record total for a single race. The first time any man ran the half-marathon in less than an hour was in 1997, when Kenyan Shem Kororia won a half-marathon in Košice, Slovakia.
Ten students from NYU Abu Dhabi participated, with freshman Martin Slosarik clocking in the fastest school time at 1:38:06 and senior Symone Gamble, the sole female student, finishing with a time of 2:20:34. The students left Abu Dhabi at 2 a.m. on the morning of the race, passing through three emirates before arriving in Ras al Khaimah.
“I was really nervous going into the race because I thought, ‘I’ve never really run 13 miles without any sleep,’” said NYU New York senior Dylan Maurer. “But ultimately, the time we left worked out really well. We got there early, had enough time to prepare for it.”
The start of the race was delayed by about 20 minutes, resulting in frustration among some participants. In an email released the following day, Race Director Nathan Clayton indicated that the late start was due in part to a delayed arrival of Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah and primary sponsor of the event.
“Starting the race without him is simply not something we either should do or would do and we therefore didn't do,” Clayton wrote in the email.
Still, Maurer said that the sheikh’s presence at the race made the overall atmosphere of the event special and that the race itself was fun.
“They had big balloon markers every kilometer — there was one that said, ‘You’re enjoying running the world’s fastest half-marathon right now,’” said Maurer. “I was like, ‘oh wow, maybe I am enjoying this.’”
Alistair Blacklock is editor-in chief. Email him at
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