14 MAR 2014 Preview Lisbon, Portugal

Fast times expected on Lisbon’s improved course

The elite field of the 2014 EDP Lisbon Half Marathon (Victah Sailer / organisers)The elite field of the 2014 EDP Lisbon Half Marathon (Victah Sailer / organisers) © Copyright

Organisers of the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon have made some small changes to the course, making it flatter and faster. It means the high-quality elite fields will head to the Portuguese capital for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (16) with high hopes of producing lifetime bests.

Part of the reason for tweaking the course is because if the men want to set a course record, they will also have to break the world record as it was at the 2010 edition of this race where Zersenay Tadese set the existing world record of 58:23.

Should they succeed, they will secure a USD $50,000 bonus. As the women’s race will be held separately to the men’s, the same bonus is on offer for breaking the women-only world record of 1:06:25, set by Lornah Kiplagat in Udine seven years ago.

Two of Kenya’s top athletes will be making their half-marathon debut in the men’s race. World and Olympic 10,000m finalist Bedan Karoki has been in great form this year, winning the World’s Best 10k in San Juan less than three weeks ago, and winning the hotly contested Kenyan cross-country title one week prior to that.

His recent performance in San Juan was his first ever race on the roads, but he won by a comfortable margin in difficult conditions, beating a quality field.

World 10,000m bronze medallist Paul Tanui will also be contesting his first ever 13.1mile race. Like Karoki, the 2011 world cross-country silver medallist warmed up for Lisbon by racing in San Juan and finished fourth in 28:59 in what was just his second road race to date.

But given the quality of the field, this could well be a baptism of fire for Karoki and Tanui.

They will be up against 2011 world cross-country champion Imane Merga, who has a half marathon PB of 59:56, 2010 world cross-country silver medallist Teklemariam Medhin and his fellow Eritrean Amanuel Mesel.

Kenya’s Ezekiel Chebii has the fastest half-marathon PB of the field with 59:05, set when winning in Lille in 2012. He will be joined by compatriots Bernard Kitur, who finished fourth in this race last year, former Nairobi Marathon winner Moses Kigen, and Richard Sigei, who has a best of 1:01:14.

Zimbabwe’s Cuthbert Nyasango, who finished seventh in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics, is also in the field and has a PB of 1:00:26. Other contenders include Ethiopia’s Abayneh Ayele and Morocco’s Adil Annani, who finished fourth at the London Marathon two years ago with a PB of 2:07:43.

A separate prize money structure is in place for the domestic entrants. Hermano Ferreira is the fastest of the Portuguese men in Lisbon with a PB of 1:01:24, but could be challenged by Pedro Ribeiro and Jose Moreira.

Straneo faces strong African challenge

Italy’s world marathon silver medallist Valerie Straneo is one of a handful of strong European athletes who could challenge the tradition African dominance at the Lisbon Half Marathon.

Kenyan or Ethiopian women have won 13 of the past 15 titles in Lisbon, but Straneo has won her past five races over the half-marathon distance and has a PB of 1:07:46.

European cross-country champion Sophie Duarte is making her half-marathon debut, while European 10,000m champion Ana Dulce Felix leads a strong Portuguese contingent that also includes 2013 European indoor 3000m champion Sara Moreira. Seasoned British international Susan Partridge, 10th in the 2013 IAAF World Championships marathon, will be looking to improve on her best of 1:10:32.

The European women will face strong challengers, such as Kenya’s 2009 world half-marathon silver medallist Philes Ongori, who has a PB of 1:07:38 and has never finished outside the top three in all 13 races she has contested over the distance.

Last year’s Chicago Marathon runner-up Jemima Jelagat is also in the field, along with fellow Kenyans Jane Kiptoo, who set her PB of 1:09:07 at the 2009 edition of this race, and Diana Chepkemoi Sigei, who has a best of 1:08:08 and finished second in Lisbon two years ago.

Worknesh Debele, who has a PB of 1:07:49, is the sole Ethiopian in the field. Another notable entrant is Portugal’s 2008 Olympic triathlon silver medallist Vanessa Fernandes, who has a half marathon PB of 1:12:28 and represented Portugal at the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Organisers expect about 32,000 finishers on Sunday with weather conditions looking ideal.

Antonio Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF

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