The EDP Lisbon Half Marathon will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Sunday (22) when it welcomes double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah to the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Since arriving in the Portuguese capital on Tuesday, Farah has been training at the National High Performance Athletics Centre.
“I’ll see how I’ll be on the day of the race,” he said. “I’m in good shape, as my recent two miles world indoor best proved, but once I’m on the course I’ll see if I’m able to produce something special. I’ll go with the boys in the front and then we will see.”
The course record also happens to be the world record, set by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in 2010 with 58:23. The bonus for breaking that mark is €100,000 and a strong field has been assembled to take on Farah.
Ethiopia’s Guye Adola set a PB of 59:21 to take bronze at last year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and then improved on that with 59:06 to win the high-quality New Delhi Half Marathon.
Fellow Ethiopian Deriba Merga is another past winner of the Delhi Half Marathon, setting his PB of 59:15 at the 2008 edition of the race. The 2008 Olympic marathon fourth-place finisher was out of action in 2014, but has run faster than 60 minutes for the half marathon on eight occasions.
Silas Kipruto finished second in Lisbon last year. The Kenyan has a half-marathon PB of 59:39, set on his debut at the distance in 2010 before going on to finish fourth at that year’s World Half Marathon Championships.
Other sub-60-minute performers in the field include 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Micah Kogo, 58:54 performer Stephen Kibet, fellow Kenyan Alex Oloitiptip, and Aziz Lahbabi, the fastest ever Moroccan over the 13.1-mile distance.
Also on the start line will be Morocco’s 2011 World Championships fourth-place finisher Abderrahime Bouramdane, 2012 New Delhi Half Marathon winner Edwin Kipyego, 2013 Verbania Half Marathon winner Luka Rotich, and Brazil’s 2012 Olympic marathon eighth-place finisher Paulo Roberto Paula.
The top Portuguese entrants are national cross-country champion Rui Pinto and 1:01:24 performer Hermano Ferreira.
Jeptoo the women’s favourite
Olympic and 2011 world marathon silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo is the overwhelming favourite in the women’s race. Her fastest time of 1:05:45 was set on the Great South Run’s downhill course, while her legal PB is 1:06:11.
In 2013 she won both the London and New York marathons and last year she won the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in 1:07:02.
Japan’s 2004 Olympic marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi is among Jeptoo’s opponents, but the 36-year-old hasn’t raced since dropping out of the 2013 World Championships marathon.
Ana Dulce Felix leads the Portuguese charge. The 2012 European 10,000m champion has a PB of 1:08:33, set at the 2011 edition of this race, and recently won the national road-running title. She’ll be joined by compatriot Sara Moreira, the 2013 European indoor 3000m champion.
Ethiopia’s Koren Jelela could be one of Jeptoo’s biggest threats. The 28-year-old has a PB of 1:08:39 and a marathon best of 2:22:43.
Aside from Jeptoo, there are several other talented Kenyans in the field. Rose Chelimo has won her past four half marathons, including a 1:08:40 victory in Breda in October and, more recently, a 1:08:53 triumph in Adana in January.
With a PB of 1:08:49, Doris Changeywo is only marginally slower. Polline Wanjiku set her PB of 1:09:06 when winning last year’s Warsaw Half Marathon, while Jane Kiptoo finished third in Lisbon in 2009, setting a PB of 1:09:07.
Although a newcomer to the roads and one of the slowest Kenyans in the field on paper with her best of 1:10:40, 21-year-old Purity Rionoripo is one to watch. The 2009 world youth 3000m champion has won all four of the half marathons she has contested to date, two of which were also in Portugal.
On Thursday, half-way between the ’25 de Abril Bridge’ and Jeronimo’s Monastery, organisers revealed a statue in homage to runners; a symbolic gesture in honour of the thousands who have crossed the bridge in Portugal’s most iconic road race over the past 25 years.
Antonio Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF