A capital occasion.jpg

A capital occasion

SOME OF the world’s best middle distance runners will assemble in Lisbon to take to the road for the capital’s 18th Half-Marathon.

Leading the way will be legendary Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, who earlier this week announced his withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics due to personal health fears on account of excessive air pollution levels prevailing in the Chinese capital.

The 34-year-old world record holder over the full 26 miles has set 25 world best times during his career and took the New York equivalent of this weekend’s event in 59.24 minutes, as well as winning in Dubai earlier this year.

He will, however, be strongly challenged along the Tejo estuary by the likes of Athens Olympic gold medallist Stefano Baldini from Italy, 2007 Kenyan Lisbon winner, Robert Kipchumba, as well as Robert Cheruyot, Luke Kibet and Jaouad Gharib.

Past Lisbon half marathons have produced world class performances. Paul Tergat covered the course in 59.06 minutes eight years ago, while António Pinto was the fastest Portuguese finisher in 1998 and completed it in less than an hour.

Recent developments have led to athletics’ world governing body, the IAAF, recognising the Lisbon race as one of the best in the world, awarding it the gold seal of approval.

Plans are now afoot to integrate the event into the annual elite running circuit, an ambition which should be achieved shortly after organisers have modified the course to make it more suitable for world record attempts.

For more sport, please turn to pages 16 and 17.

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