Olympic 5,000m champion Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot is ready to tackle her second half marathon race in Lisbon on Sunday as she refines ahead of her marathon debut in London next month.
Cheruiyot, who is also the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist, only arrived in Lisbon on the eve of the race, having failed to secure her Schengen visa on time.
Cheruiyot, who holds the 2011 Daegu and 2015 Beijing World 10,000m titles as well as the 2009 Berlin and 2011 Daegu World 5,000m titles, made a triumphant debut in road racing when she won the Great North Run (half marathon) on her 33rd birthday on September 11, last year.
Cheruiyot clocked 1 hour, 07 minutes and 54 seconds, beating compatriot and the 2012 Olympic marathon silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo, who timed 1:08:04.
“Training has been fine and I hope her late arrival won’t affect her performance,” said Cheruiyot’s coach Kiplagat Kirui. “This will be her first race of the season and she is in great spirit and shape.”
In Lisbon, Cheruiyot takes the battle to World marathon champion Mare Dibaba from Ethiopia as she tries to reclaim the title that was won by another Ethiopian Aga Ruti last year in 1 hour, 09 minutes and 16 seconds.
Cheruiyot will also be targeting a good time in the Portuguese capital especially the course record of 1:08:22, set by Rose Chelimo in 2015.
Also in the race is the World Half Marathon bronze medallist Mary Wacera, who is fresh from defending her World’s Best 10km Road Race in Puerto Rico on February 26. Wacera went for her third consecutive victory in the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in 31:41.
Wacera, who has personal best 1:06:29 and a former winner in Boston and Houston, will be making her maiden appearance in Portugal.
Dibaba hasn’t raced since she won bronze in marathon at last year’s Olympic Games, but she has a strong record at the half marathon distance.
The 27-year-old Ethiopian, who is currently preparing for the London Marathon, has run faster than 68 minutes on three occasions and has a best of 1:07:13.
The 23-year-old Ruti will defend her title against a much tougher field than the one she faced 12 months ago.
Ethiopia’s world and Olympic finalist Ababel Yeshaneh and 2014 European marathon champion Christelle Daunay of France are also in the field.
The men’s race will be equally competitive with Simon Cheprot, who boasts of a personal best of 59:20 and finished sixth at last year’s World Half Marathon among favourites.
Other contenders include Kenya’s James Mwangi, Edwin Kibet Koech, Daniel Rotich and Eritrea’s 2014 African 10,000m champion Nguse Amlosom, who has twice won the Lisbon Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon.
It will be Amlosom’s first appearance at the ‘other’ half marathon in the Portuguese capital.
Kenyan men swept the first five places last year with Sammy Kitwara leading the assault in 59:47 as Kenneth Kiprop (1:00:5) and Paul Lonyangata (1100:11) completed the podium.