Bernard Koech breaks the tape to win in Lisbon (© Victah Sailor)
No other city in the world this year can boast of having two IAAF Gold Label Road Races on the same day, but on Sunday (18) the Portuguese capital of Lisbon will host the Rock’n’Roll Marathon of Lisbon EDP and the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon Vodafone RTP.
The courses of both races will pass by iconic landmarks such as the Belem Tower, Jeronimo’s Monastery, the Discoveries Monument, the 25 of April Bridge, Cristo Rei Statue, Vasco da Gama Bridge and the Orient Rail Road Station.
For the half marathon, organisers have assembled a field containing more than 10 runners with personal bests faster than 1:00:00. All of them will be aiming to beat the 1:00:19 course record set in 2013 by Wilson Kiprop.
Bernard Koech leads the entries. Although his 58:41 PB was set on San Diego’s downhill course, it still makes him the third-fastest man in history under any conditions.
He has run faster than an hour for the distance on four other occasions, including a victory at the2013 EDP Half Marathon of Lisbon – a different event to next month’s one in the Portuguese capital – in 59:54. More recently, he won over 10 miles in Tilburg in 45:21.
Fellow Kenyan Alex Korio Oloitiptip is also in the field. He finished fourth in this race last year but recently improved his PB to 59:28 when finishing second in Copenhagen last month.
Atsedu Tsegay is one of two strong Ethiopian runners. He set a national record of 58:47 in Prague three years ago but hasn’t raced since finishing seventh at this year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships. He will be joined by compatriot Guye Adola, the world half-marathon bronze medallist.
Bahrain’s Shumi Dechasa, who finished fifth in the marathon at this year’s World Championships, will contest his first half marathon since winning the Arab title over the distance in April this year.
Geoffrey Kusuro, the fastest Ugandan man over the half marathon with his 59:43 clocking in the Rome-Ostia race earlier this year, is also in the field, along with Eritrea’s Nguse Amlosom, who came within 16 seconds of his PB when finishing third in Yangzhou earlier this year in 59:55.
Others in the field include Brazilian twins Paulo and Luis Paula, Russia’s European marathon bronze medallist Aleksey Reunkov, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Sitkovskiy, Kenya’s Elijah Serem and Eritrea’s Merhawi Kesete.
The Portuguese contingent is led by Hermano Ferreira and includes Jose Rocha, Pedro Ribeiro, Tiago Costa, Eduardo Mbengani, Miguel Ribeiro and Ricardo Dias.
Dibaba’s first race since winning world title
The women’s field is just as loaded as the men’s, with world marathon champion Mare Dibaba leading the entries.
The Ethiopian has won four of her past six marathons, including the World Championships in Beijing, the 2014 Chicago Marathon and the two most recent editions of the Xiamen Marathon. But in Lisbon she will be running mainly as an ambassador and doesn't intend on challenging for victory.
But compatriot Wude Ayalew, the 2009 world 10,000m bronze medallist, does have her eye on topping the podium. Her half-marathon PB of 1:07:58 was set on her debut at the distance back in 2009.
Fellow Ethiopian Feyse Tadesse, the 2014 Berlin Marathon runner-up and 2012 world half-marathon silver medallist, will be contesting her first race of 2015.
Kenyan women have won 10 of the past 15 editions of this race; Rebecca Kangogo Chesire looks to be their best bet of adding to that tally this weekend. The 23-year-old won the Stramilano Half Marathon earlier this year in a PB of 1:08:21.
Priscah Cherono, the 2006 world cross-country silver medallist, Beatrice Mutai and Stramilano runner-up Angela Tanui are also in the field.
Sara Moreira, the 2013 European indoor 3000m champion, leads the Portuguese entries.
Marathon course records under threat
Early on Sunday morning, the coastal town of Cascais will host the start of the third edition of Rock’n’Roll Lisbon Marathon.
Organisers are hopeful that the course records – Samuel Ndungu’s 2:08:21 and Visiline Jepkesho’s 2:26:47, both set last year – will be challenged. Both marks are also Portuguese all-comers’ records.
Lawrence Kimaiyo, who has a 2:07:01 PB, finished third in this race last year but will be looking to improve on that this time round. Fellow Kenyans Silas Sang, winner of the Belgrade Marathon this year, and Daniel Limo, the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon champion, should also be in contention.
While Kimaiyo owns the fastest PB, Limo’s 2:10:36 is the quickest season’s best of the field.
Based on this year’s form, Stephen Kosgei Kibet also looks capable of challenging for the victory. He clocked 2:11:08 in Hamburg earlier this year and ran a 1:01:09 half marathon last month.
Asbel Kipsang could be a dark horse. He has won both of his marathons to date and recently clocked a half-marathon PB of 1:00:37.
Zimbabwean record-holder Cuthbert Nyasango and Belgium’s Abdelhadi El Hachimi are also in the field.
The women’s race features the anticipated marathon debut of Purity Rionoripo.
The Kenyan was a talented junior on the track, winning the 2009 world youth 3000m title. After a few fallow years, she moved to the roads in 2014 and found immediate success, winning her first four half marathons.
Her latest victory came in Copenhagen last month where she reduced her half-marathon PB to 1:08:29.
Compatriot Margaret Agai has finished on the podium in all four of her marathons to date. The fastest of those runs came in Daegu last year when she won in 2:23:28.
Morocco’s Malika Assahsah, Kenya’s Purity Changwony and Ethiopia’s Beshadu Bekele will also take to the marathon start line on Sunday.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF