Jake Robertson winning the 2017 Lisbon Half Marathon (© organisers)
Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba and Jake Robertson of New Zealand took the victories at the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in the Portuguese capital on Sunday (19).
A conservative start put paid early on to any assault on the 1:08:22 course record in the women's race. Portugal's Jessica Augusto, the national cross country champion, took the early lead in her test run in advance of next month's Hamburg Marathon, and was at the head of the pack until the 16th kilometre.
"The favourites really weren't running like usual, to get good performances, so I went to the lead to try and push the pace a little harder," said Augusto, who eventually finished seventh.
In the 16th kilometre, the pace changed dramatically with Kenya's Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruyiot and Dibaba, the 2015 world marathon champion, at the front, just a few seconds ahead of Mary Wacera and Afera Godfay Behra. The quartet continued running together through the finish where Dibaba's stronger sprint made the difference.
The Ethiopian clocked 1:09:43, but was hoping for something faster ahead of her appearance at next month's London Marathon.
Cheruiyot took the runner-up spot just one second behind, with Wacera third in 1:09:53. Berha was fourth two more seconds back.
Robertson springs surprise in half marathon debut
The men's race was fiercely competitive with five runners, along with pacemaker Alex Korio, covering the opening 10 kilometres in 27:45. At that point Kenyan James Wangari tried to make a move, but Robertson stayed with him.
After the 16th kilometre Robertson moved to the front and never relented, reaching the line in 1:00:01 in his debut over the distance to become the first non-African winner at this race since Portugal's Antonio Pinto won in 1998 clocking 59:43.
"I was expecting to run faster than my brother's performance," he said, referring to his twin brother Zane Robertson's 59:47 Oceania area record. "But in the closing kilometres I couldn't keep the pace and then had to only focus on winning the race. That was really good and I'm proud of that."
Wangari was second in 1:00:11 while Kenyan Edwin Koech won the battle for third over 20-year-old Ethiopian Tadu Abate Deme by just one second in 1:00.45.
Antonio Fernandes for the IAAF