Portugal has two flagship races over the Half Marathon distance, two “sisters” organised for the same team: the Lisbon Half-Marathon in spring, and the Vodafone RTP Portugal Half-Marathon in the fall. Sunday (25) is time for the younger of the two races, which gets underway on the Vasco da Gama Bridge, one of the largest in Europe, which spans the Tagus River.
The solid field of this IAAF Gold Label Road Race includes several world medallists and past winners of the some of the biggest road races on the planet.
Keitany vs Kilel – women’s race
The women’s field boasts the return of Mary Keitany, the World record holder over the distance at 1:05:50. The 29-year-old Kenyan, who broke the World record in Ras Al Khaimah in February, has produced five of the fastest Half Marathon performances in history, all at 1:07:00 or better. She displayed her talents over the Marathon as well in April when winning the London Marathon in 2:19:19 in just her second race over the distance.
Keitany, the 2009 World Half Marathon champion, made her last major race appearance here in Lisbon, winning a 5Km in late May.
Her current fitness will be tested by compatriot Caroline Kilel (1:08:16), the winner of this year’s Boston Marathon in 2:22:36.
Another Kenyan, 2009 Boston Marathon winner Salina Kosgei, brings 1:07:52 credentials to the race. Rita Jeptoo (1:07.08), the bronze medalist in 2006 World Road Running Race Championships, and Helena Kirop (1:09:50), winner of marathons in Prague and Nairobi last year, is also among the runners to watch.
And of course there are the strong Portuguese, lead by Ana Dulce Felix (1:08:32), who was second at the Great North Run in 2010. Sara Moreira (1:10:08) is also in the field.
Men’s race wide open
In the men’s contest the east African contingent is predictably strong. Among them are Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin, the silver medalist at the World Cross Country championship in 2010. The Ethiopian charge will be led by Lelisa Desisa (59:37), winner in City per City Half Marathon and his compatriot Deeje Hailegiorgis (1:00:00), the third place finisher in the 2011 Stramilano. Kenya comes armed with Silas Kipruto (59:39), the fourth place finisher at the 2010 World Half Marathon Championships; Allan Ndiwa (1:00:45), winner of this year’s Linz Half Marathon; Silas Sang (1:00:20), winner in the Portugal Half-Marathon in 2008 and 2009; and sub-one-hour man Lucas Rotich (59:44), among others.
Leading the European challenge is Viktor Rothlin, of Switzerland, the European Marathon champion in Barcelona 2010 – also the 2007 World Marathon bronze medallist - who will return to Portugal to participate for the second time in a row in this competition.
The locals will look to Rui Silva (1:03:00), the former Olympic 1500m bronze medallist and Rui Pedro Silva (1:02:42) who are also in the elite field. The elite course is quite flat as they do not start on the bridge.
More than 10,000 people are expected to participate in the 8Km ‘mini marathon’, with one name particularly standing out, that of South Africa’s ‘blade runner’ Oscar Pistorius, most recently a semi-finalist in the 400m at the World Championships in Daegu.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
- Mary Keitany impresses and dominates with a 2:19:19 victory in London (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Caroline Kilel takes the 2011 Boston title in 2:22:36 (Getty Images) © Copyright