Wilson Kiprop winning at the 2013 Rock’n’Roll Vodafone Half Marathon of Portugal (© Marcelino Almeida / organisers)
Kenya’s Wilson Kiprop took one second off the course record when he clocked 1:00:19 at the Rock’n’Roll Vodafone Half Marathon of Portugal, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in Lisbon on Sunday (6).
Kiprop was in the lead almost from the gun and was part of a three-man group, which included Eritrea's Goitom Kifle and Kenya's Simon Cheprot. They went through 10km in a quick 28:20.
Cheprot started to fade shortly afterwards, eventually finishing sixth, and just before the 15km point in the Portuguese capital, Kiprop made his decisive move and quickly opened up a lead over his last remaining challenger Kifle.
The Kenyan then put in a tremendous solitary effort over the last six kilometres to improve on the previous best of 1:00:20 which had been run by his compatriot Silas Sang in 2009.
The 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships gold medallist pushed hard over the final third of the race but the hot weather – with temperatures reaching a height of 25 degrees Celsius – and a strong breeze in their faces in the first half of the race militated against Kiprop becoming the first man to break the hour barrier at the race.
“I’ve told you before that I expected a fast course, with a lot of very strong competitors, and I said we could made history. Now I think that if I had more help, maybe with a pacemaker, this course can be run under one hour," said Kiprop.
"I tried to be faster but the hot conditions, and especially the wind, forced me to this result. But I’m happy to be here, to have won and beat the course record."
Kifle, still 19, had no answer when Kiprop started to surge and finished 59 seconds behind the Kenyan winner in 1:01:18. He was followed home by another Eritrean, 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships bronze medallist Teklemariam Medhin, who broke away from a three-man chasing group in the closing stages of the race to finish third in 1:02:05.
Ethiopia's 2011 World 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan, who also won a silver medal over 25 laps of the track in Moscow two months ago, had an an inauspicious debut over the distance and could only finish 11th in 1:04:37.
The women’s race was won by Italy’s 2013 World Championships Marathon silver medallist Valeria Straneo in 1:09:21.
After being on her own for much of the final 10km, Straneo created a little bit of history when she became the first non-African, either man or woman, to win in 14 editions of the race.
After going through 15km in 48:40 and opening up a 23-second lead over Ethiopia's Worknesh Degefa, she extended her advantage over the final six kilometres to almost two minutes. Degefa hung on to take second place in 1:11:08.
"I like to run in hot conditions. I faced the wind, just like everybody, but the major difficulties are the course. It’s not totally flat, with small elevations, but the wind also held me back conditioned me. I feel that I could run faster than I did," said Straneo.
It was an emotional race for local heroine Ana Dulce Felix, whose father had died on Friday. She decided to run anyway, as a tribute to him, and the European 10,000m champion finished sixth.
Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata won the accompanying Marathon in 2:09:46, the fastest ever Marathon on Portuguese soil, with Ukraine’s nine-time European cross-country champion Serhiy Lebid second in 2:11:24. Agnes Kiprop made it a Kenyan double over the classic distance when she won the women’s Marathon in 2:31:15.
Antonio Manuel Fernandes and Phil Minshull for the IAAF