I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Portugal Half-Marathon in Lisbon a few days ago, along with 20,000 of my
closest running buddies, thus conquering another destination on my quest to run
Continuing its foray into Europe, Portugal was the latest stop on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series* (RnR) tour, following stops in Edinburgh and Madrid earlier in the year.
I’d heard great things about this race series from friends who have run them in the United States, so I was
geeked to finally be able to participate.
The sold-out race, formerly known as the Portugal Half-Marathon, was a hit and also featured a 5.5-kilometer mini-marathon, for those who still wanted to Rock ‘n’ Roll, but with a little less run and a little more fun.
The Opening Act
The expo is what I would consider the opening act, and like many opening acts for big-name headliners –
and like most expos I’ve been to in Europe, quite honestly – it was nothing special. It was actually kind of a snooze-fest. In addition to people handing out flyers for upcoming races in the area, sponsors of the race were there hawking their wares: CEP Compression offered 20% off its products, PowerAde passed out samples and GU offered special prices for participants. RnR also had a booth, with branded merchandise and information on upcoming events.
But basically, the only reason to go the expo was to pick up your race packet. If you were expecting a big production like those in the US, with lots of vendors, speakers and a party-like atmosphere, you would have been very disappointed.
But hey, we all know it’s not the opening act that you pay to see anyway. The opening act is when you go to the restroom, get your drink and settle in while waiting for the main act.
Setting the stage
The stage for the start of the race was the Vasco Da Gama Bridge. And what a stage it was! The
structure, built for Expo ‘98 to celebrate 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route from Europe to India, is absolutely stunning.
The 80-year-old designer of the bridge was on hand the day of the race. Not only was he there to show his support and admire his handiwork as thousands of runners clad in neon yellow garb
|Photo credit: Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series
made their way across his masterpiece, but he RAN. And not the mini-marathon, (not that there’s anything wrong with the mini-marathon), but the half-marathon. Talk about a ROCKSTAR!
After starting on the bridge, the course went out and back for several kilometers, finishing in the Parque das Nações, the location of the 1998 World Exposition.
Though Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills, the course was flat, with the exception of a couple of inclines. Most runners probably didn’t think much of them, but since I live and train in Holland where you don’t find very many hills, I noticed every elevation point, no matter how slight.
The race started at 10:30 am, which is pretty late, especially when you consider that it was already 70°F (21°C) by then. I know Lisbon has that southern European/Latin thing going on, and they work on a different, later time schedule, which, under different circumstance is something I could totally get into, but when we’re talking about the difference between racing in the cool of the morning versus the hottest part of the day, um, NO. Let’s get the party started a little earlier.
Since it was a RnR race, there were lots of bands and DJs along the course. However, there could
have been something between kilometers 17-20 (miles10.5- 12.5). This last stretch of the race felt very quiet and the finish line – that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel -was not in view until the final 100 meters, so some music would have been a welcomed boost.
One of the few supporters I saw while running those final kilometers of race yelled out “You can do it.
There’s ice cream at the finish.” Though support is always good, especially late in the game, empty promises aren’t necessary.
But guess what? There WAS ice cream at the finish! And ice cream totally trumps those orange wedges you get at the end of some races, especially when you’ve just run a half-marathon in 75°F (25°C) heat.
Hydration stops were well placed, with water and PowerAde flowing freely. As for the fueling stations, now that’s a different tune. While looking over the course map the night before, I noticed that there was only one GU Energy Gel** station and that it was located pretty late on the course. I’m thinking that I’ma need that bit of fuel before kilometer 16.
That being said, better late (GU) than never (GU), which ended up being the case for those of us at the back-of-the-pack, since they were all out by the time we got there.
Oh well. No use in crying of spilt GU. Fortunately, I’m a BYO kinda girl, so I had a couple of packages on
Another kilometer or so up the road, the volunteers at the banana station also had nuttin’ but love
for us. Yeah, whatever. Thanks for nothing.
After receiving ice cream at the finish, the runners were treated to a concert by popular Portuguese artists
Xutos & Pontapés, Luís Represas and João Gil. If running a half marathon didn’t make you sweat,
then rockin’ out with those guys sure did.
Despite the GU and banana thing, overall I’d say Rock ‘n’ Roll Portugal was a chart-topper. It was well organized, though it could use a few tweaks here and there (see the previously mentioned earlier start, music during the latter kilometers and more and better-stocked fuel stations). But you expect a couple of hiccups the first time out.
What’s a rock n roll event without the memorabilia? I gave the bright yellow race shirt the side-eye when I first saw it online, but thought looked much better in person, and will definitely wear it again.
I’ll also be sporting the cute little t-shirt I picked up from the RnR booth at the expo. Then there’s the BLING!
While I won’t be wearing it around town, it is one of the best looking medals I’ve scored, so it will be prominently displayed on the medal hanger.
Rock ‘n’ Roll, baby!
*Disclosure: The Competitor Group/ Rock ‘n’ Roll Portugal 1/2 Marathon provided me with free race entry.
**Outside PR & Sports Marketing provided me with a sampler package of GU Energy Gels.
All thoughts and opinions expressed are all my own.