Vivian Cheruiyot crosses the finish line (© AFP / Getty Images)
The EDP Lisbon Half Marathon’s flat and fast course has attracted numerous global medallists to the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (19).
The women’s contest will be the biggest focus of this year’s race as Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot takes on world marathon champion Mare Dibaba.
Cheruyiot, who also took silver over 10,000m before her triumph at the shorter event in Rio last year, has contested just one half marathon to date but her debut was a victorious one as she won the Great North Run in 1:07:54 last year. If the 33-year-old Kenyan can match that kind of time in the Portuguese capital, she would break the course record of 1:08:22, set by Rose Chelimo in 2015.
Dibaba hasn’t raced since she took the bronze medal in the marathon at last year’s Olympic Games, but she has a strong record at the half marathon distance. The 27-year-old Ethiopian, who is currently preparing for the London Marathon, has run faster than 68 minutes on three occasions and has a best of 1:07:13.
Kenya’s Mary Wacera is the fastest in the field. The Kenyan has finished on the podium at the past two editions of the IAAF World Half Marathon championships and has a lifetime best of 1:06:29. A former winner in Boston and Houston, this will be Wacera’s first appearance in Portugal.
Ruti Aga won in Lisbon last year in what was just her second race at the distance. The 23-year-old Ethiopian will defend her title on Sunday against a much tougher field than the one she faced 12 months ago.
Ethiopia’s world and Olympic finalist Ababel Yeshaneh and 2014 European marathon champion Christelle Daunay of France are also in the field. The Portuguese challenge is led by European half marathon champion Sara Moreira, 2012 European 10,000m champion Ana Dulce Felix and European half marathon bronze medallist Jessica Augusto.
Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong had to withdraw from the race at the last minute after picking up a small injury.
Such is the quality of the men’s field, the organisers have asked pacemaker Alex Korio to take the field through the first 10 kilometres in 27:40.
James Mwangi is one of the athletes who will be expected to cope with that pace. The Kenyan made his half-marathon debut last year with a 59:12 victory in Milan. He followed it by winning a high-quality race in Copenhagen, improving his lifetime best to 59:07 after covering the opening 10km in 27:10.
Eritrea’s 2014 African 10,000m champion Nguse Amlosom has twice won the Lisbon Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon, but this will be his first appearance at the ‘other’ half marathon in the Portuguese capital.
Simon Cheprot set his PB of 59:20 back in 2013 and finished sixth at last year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
Other contenders include Kenya’s Edwin Kibet Koech, Daniel Rotich and Zimbabwe’s Cuthbert Nyasango, all of whom have lifetime bests within 61 minutes. France’s 2009 world steeplechase bronze medallist Bouabdellah Tahri is also in the field, while Portuguese hopes rest with Samuel Barata, Hermano Ferreira and Rui Teixeira.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF