SUNDAY morning boasted a temperature of 20 degrees at just 10.30am and saw the 15,000 runners taking part in the 5th RTP Meia-Maratona de Portugal and 5th EDP Mini-Maratona begin their journey over Lisbon’s stunning Vasco da Gama Bridge.
Kenyan athletes once again dominated the proceedings in the 21km competitive race – all of the first nine men to finish the half marathon were Kenyan. William Kiplagat took first place with a time of 01:01:38, two seconds faster than the previous race record. Following the Kenyans, in 10th place, was Portuguese athlete, Hermano Ferreira, who finished in a time of 01:04:56 – a personal best.
The Kenyan ladies proved equally difficult to beat, taking first, second and third positions. Margaret Okayo was the first woman over the finishing line in a time of 01:09:53.
The lighter side of the race
In contrast to the London Marathon, there seemed to be very few runners in fancy dress running for charity, but the atmosphere was electric, with those taking part in the fun run most definitely in a party mood. As RTP’s television cameras filmed from helicopters overhead, the runners looked up to the sky, let out enormous cheers and waved wildly – their friends and families no doubt scanning the live coverage on RTP1 hoping to catch a glimpse of them amongst the crowd.
The race also offered a rare opportunity to cross the Vasco da Gama Bridge on foot, the views of the River Tejo and the Expo 98 area are without doubt stunning. Some participants in the fun run had brought their dogs along for the experience and there were even some mothers with prams, enjoying a stroll.
Bob Hughes joined some of the runners
As I stood on the Vasco da Gama bridge on Sunday morning, along with some 15,000 others, I couldn’t help wondering what these budding athletes do on a normal Sunday morning. There were the stretchers, the back benders, the joggers on the spot, and the gyrating from side to side competitors, but, apart from these, there were those who took life a little easier – one family whiled away the time until the start by playing cards, another runner sat reading the Sunday morning papers, others lay in the road, probably thinking will I make it? The young and the not so young all stood together waiting to go into the battle of mind over matter.
Three generations of one family were dressed as waiters. Grandfather and father were competing in their fifth half marathon, while the grandson told me that this was his first, and he was adamant that he would not drop anything off his tray. Then there was the football fanatic, tapping the ball from one foot to the other. I followed him for 4.5kms and the ball only touched the ground once when he had to re-tie the lace of his trainers.
The joy of the Lisbon half marathon is that the majority of competitors really have fun, singing and laughing as every stride gets them nearer the end. What better way to spend a Sunday morning enjoying life and getting fitter? Perhaps we’ll see you there next year?