There was a surprise at the 8th RTP Portugal Half Marathon today, with Emmanuel Mutai, a 29-year-old Kenyan, taking the victory after a strong finish sprint took him from a long way back past the leaders, fellow Kenyan Robert Kipkoech Cheruyiot and Morocco's Jaouad Gharib, to finish victorious in 61:54.
Ethiopian Bizunesh Bekele took the women’s race win in 1:10:20
Mutai, fifth in this year’s spring Lisbon Half Marathon, crossed the '25th April' bridge, behind Cheruyiot and Gharib, to surprise everyone with his victory.
The weather (25º and 66% humidity, at 11 a.m.), conditioned all the runners to be cautious, and so despite the new flat course the race was not that fast.
After the first three kilometres, the leading pack was reduced to 20 runners, with all the Kenyans, plus Gharib, and the two Italians Stefano Baldini, the Olympic Marathon champion, and Daniele Caimmi, and a few Portuguese runners. A few kilometres later, the pack reduced again to 10, with the Moroccan left alone with the Kenyans.
In the last two kilometres, Gharib, the 2003 and 2005 World Marathon champion, and Cheruyiot, made a surge which the others couldn’t match. However, in the last kilometre, Mutai counter attacked and came from a longway behind to take the win. Cheruyiot finished second (62:01), seven seconds after Mutai, and Gharib was third by another four seconds.
Other great names came later in the results, Baldini (9th with 63.55), and Ukraine’s Sergey Lebid (19th, 67.42).
The best Portuguese was José Rocha, from the club organizers (Marathon), came in 10th place (1:04.09), ahead of Luis Jesus (1:04.51).
Bizunesh Bekele, a surprising second last year, this time came to the front right from the gun and was never headed. With Salina Kosgei behind her, but in the same group, Bekele finished her race with the fourth fastest ever time in this half marathon, stopping a string of Kenyan wins (three wins in last three years), and beating Kosgei by 48 seconds!
Kenyan Mary Pitkany, a late entrant, was third in 1:11:37.
The first Portuguese home was the former Olympic 10,000m champion Fernanda Ribeiro in 7th.
The more than 14,000 people who took part in the fun run, and 3000 in the Half Marathon, provided us with a great athletics morning.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
8th RTP PORTUGAL HALF-MARATHON
1 Emmanuel Mutai KEN 01:01:54
2 Robert K. Cheruiyot KEN 01:02:01
3 Jaouad Gharib MAR 01:02:05
4 Francis Kiprop KEN 01:02:12
5 Talel Wilberforce KEN 01:02:15
6 Paul Kosgei KEN 01:02:21
7 Silas Sang KEN 01:02:39
8 Wesley Ochoro KEN 01:03:54
1 Bizunesh Bekele ETH 01:10:20
2 Salina Kosgei KEN 01:11:08
3 Mary Ptikany KEN 01:11:37
4 Ruth Kutol KEN 01:12:56
5 Irene Jerotich KEN 01:13:34
6 Tigits Tufa ETI 01:14:09
7 Fernanda Ribeiro POR 01:14:15
8 Magdeline Chemjor KEN 01:14:41