A strong international field is on tap on Sunday (28) for the 9th edition of the RTP Portugal Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
With a course not as fast as the other Half Marathon held in Lisbon, this race, in the eastern side of the Portuguese capital, starts in the middle of the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the longest one in Europe. At the front of the pack are expected some of the most fascinating athletes of long distance events, including Jaouad Gharib, Paul Tergat, Martin Lel, Salina Kosgei and Rita Jeptoo.
Gharib, Tergat and Lel lead loaded men’s field
In the men race, the Beijing Olympic Marathon Silver medallist Jaouad Gharib (pb: 59:56), from Morocco, is a significant name in the event, one which he knows very well after appearances in past editions without winning. And he isn’t the principal favourite, despite his Olympic achievement. In the same level is Paul Tergat (pb: 59.06). The well-known Kenyan, a former Marathon and Half-Marathon record holder among other world titles and records, makes his debut in this race after several appearances in Lisbon’s spring Half Marathon. Both illustrious men will face a strong competitor, Tergat’s fellow countryman Martin Lel.
Lel, a three time champion in the London Marathon and twice in New York, has also won in Lisbon (1:00:08), is the favourite to this race. But the field also includes other great names, such as the Kenyan Paul Biwott, third this year in the Vienna Marathon; Allan Masai, winner in the Marrakech Half Marathon (pb: 01:01:22); Samuel Mwangi, winner of the Prague Half Marathon (pb: 01:02:05); Alphonse Yatich, third in the Dubai Marathon in 2007; and Ethiopians Tessema Abshior, fourth in the Hamburg Marathon (2:08:26) and Yigeze Zembaba.
Among the pack, the leading Portuguese athletes include Rui Pedro Silva and Helder Ornelas who both competed at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Women’s contest: Kosgei – Jeptoo duel
In the women race, the favourites are two Kenyans: Salina Kosgei and Rita Jeptoo. Kosgei, this year’s Lisbon Half Marathon winner and fourth in the London Marathon this year, has a personal best of 1:07:52, and has as her goal to win both Lisbon IAAF Road Race Label Events.
But Rita Jeptoo, who was third in the Boston Marathon (winner in 2006) in April, produced a strong personal best winning in Lisbon in 2007, and also wants to be the first to arrive at the finish at Lisbon’s, National Park, a remarkable architectural area of the city where citizens came on weekends to walk, run or cycle.
As at previous editions, the women’s field also has several other important names who could challenge: Alice Timbilili (pb: 1:08:56), 2005 World Cross Country silver medallist; Magdaline Chemjor (pb: 1:09:39); Lydia Njeri (pb: 1:11:26); Pasalia Chepkorir (pb:1:11:15, in Lisbon), among others.
This event is part of an extensive programme of wellness and sporting way of life of all the cities around Lisbon, from both Tagus river margins. Races for youngest and oldest are provided in the two-day event, with the Half Marathon on Sunday.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF