NAIROBI, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- The World Half marathon record will be put on the line on Friday as top 12 Kenyan elite men and 10 women line up at the RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates.
In a bid to spice up the race, organizers have placed a 100,000 U.S. dollars bounty up for grabs for anyone who breaks the world record, in addition to the 50,000 dollar prize purse.
Kenya's Joyciline Jepkosgei, the World half marathon record holder (64.51) will be taking on the best marathon runner in Mary Keitany in a race that boasts of serious star power.
The men's field is equally strong. There are 11 athletes who have run under one hour including defending champ Bedan Karoki of Kenya (58:48), Jorum Okombo (58.48), former New York and World marathon champ Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, and two-time Boston Marathon champ Lelisa Desisa. Other Kenyans are Solomon Kibet, James Wangari, Jacob Kipkosgei and Josphat Tanui.
Both Karoki and Jepkosgei have one common target: win in UAE and use the race as a stepping stone in their quest to excel at the World Half Marathon in Valencia, Spain on March 24.
On the other side, Keitany is on a mission. She is targeting a world record at the London marathon on April 22 and will want to use the RAK Half Marathon as a dry run to test how fast she can go.
"I want to win the RAK Half Marathon because last year, I was second and missed out," said Keitany. "But the important thing is that I feel strong and fit and it will be down to what strength each athlete has and not past records."
Alongside the Kenyan women, there will be former Kenyan turned Bahrainian Eunice Chumba (66:11) and two Ethiopians: Helen Bekele Tola (69:48) and Degitu Azimeraw, who is making her debut.
Jepkosgei was only third in last year's RAK Half Marathon, but since then she's been on a historic tear and is considered the favorite.
In her last four road races, Jepkosgei has set seven world records. She set the 10k, 15k, 20k, and half marathon records in Prague in April, won the Gifu Half Marathon three weeks later in Japan, broke the 10k world record.
She ended her season by breaking the half marathon record again in Valencia in October. However, Keitany, 36, remains one of the greatest road racers in history.
She finished second at RAK last year, her first half marathon defeat in almost 10 years and she still ran 65:13, and it took a world record to beat her.
Keitany has also said that she wants to attack Paula Radcliffe's 2:15:25 marathon world record in London in April.