Competitor Group takes over popular Portugese race. Tadese, Flanagan headline elite field.
Although Sunday’s Meia Maratona de Lisboa EDP doesn’t have the Rock ‘n’ Roll race label so ubiquitous in the United States, it nonetheless has the marketing and organizing muscle of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series founder, Competitor Group Inc., behind it. In fact, Sunday’s event, which features a very strong elite field led by world record holder Zersenay Tadese, will be the first of several upcoming European races in which Competitor Group is involved.
“We’ve been working hard the last 18 months on our expansion in Europe,” said Competitor Group CEO Scott Dickey in a telephone interview. Speaking from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where he was taking a day to ski with his family, Dickey added: “We have three different Rock ‘n’ Roll properties launching this year.”
Two of those three races will take place next month. The first is a half-marathon in Edinburgh, Scotland, on April 15, and the second is a marathon in Madrid on April 22. The third Rock ‘n’ Roll race Dickey spoke of is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Portugal Half-Marathon in Lisbon on September 30. They will also be working on a women’s 5-K in May, but that race will not bear the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand.
“We partnered with Carlos Moya on his three events, on the Lisbon Half, and he also had two other properties,” Dickey said of the race director for Sunday’s race which was founded and is organized by the Marathon Clube de Portugal. “We acquired all three properties. We have an operating agreement with the Club.”
Dickey said that his organization saw great potential to increase participation in these events, especially to women where participation has been lagging in southern European countries, including Portugal and Spain, where men outnumber women in a typical road race nine to one.
“In Madrid alone, 92% of the field will be men,” Dickey lamented. “We think that we have a great opportunity to grow the female part. We’re trying to make it more inviting. There’s an opportunity to build out these events to be more about the journey along the way (instead of competition).”
Sunday’s race, which Dickey said they would “never change” to the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand, is all about competition and has earned the IAAF Gold Label. Besides Eritrea’s Tadese –who ran the IAAF world record of 58:23 there in 2010 then won last year in 58:30– organizers have recruited Kenyans Peter Kamais (59:53 PB), Titus Masai (59:51), and John Mwangangi (59:56); Ethiopian Dino Sefir (59:42); and Eritreans Yared Asmerom (60:28) and Tekemariam Medhin (27:37.21 10,000m). The women’s field is led by Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia (67:21 PB); Kenya’s Peninah Arusei (67:48), Lineth Chepkurui (67:46), and Rita Jeptoo (67:08), American Shalane Flanagan (68:36); and Portuguese Ana Dulce Felix (68:32), Jessica Augusto (69:08), and Marisa Barros (69:09).
Some of the sport’s best athletes have won the half in Lisbon, including Tegla Loroupe (six times), Susan Chepkemei (three times), Haile Gebrselassie (twice), Martin Lel (three times) and Paul Tergat (twice). Organizers changed the course in 2008 to make it record-standard; prior to that the race started on a bridge with three times the allowable drop for record-setting.
Dickey said that this weekend’s event, including a untimed “Mini Marathon” of 7.2 km had drawn 37,000 entrants (last year’s half-marathon has 6331 finishers).