By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, August 20th, tens of thousands of both elite and casual runners from across the globe descended on the Cidade Maravilhosa for the 2017 Rio International Half Marathon.
In the end, Brazil’s own José Márcio Leão surged to the finish line to win the half marathon in a thrilling finish, beating out Ethiopian Demiso Legese Guideta by one second.
“I am thrilled,” exclaimed an emotional Leão after the race. “I started the race determined to pull back, which I did for 96 percent of the race,” Leão explained to reporters, fighting back tears.
“When I arrived at the final 900 meters I opened it up a little and the last 200 meters, I took a shot to the finish line and it went right.”
The 26-year-old Leão took the top spot with a time of 1h04m17s. Also joining Leão and Guideta on the podium was Brazilian Damião de Souza, who took third place finishing four seconds behind Leão.
The 2017 Rio de Janeiro International Half Marathon is the 21st edition of the half marathon, which brought together some 18,500 runners on Sunday who participated in either the main 21k half marathon or the shorter 5k run.
On the female side, Kenyan Esther Kakuri finished the half marathon with the fastest time of 1h14m44s. “The wet weather was perfect for running, in addition, the energy of the people was contagious,” said the 22-year-old Kakuri, who was running in her first marathon in Rio.
Brazilian Joziane Cardoso could not repeat her winning performance from last year’s half marathon, finishing a disappointing third behind another Kenyan, Martha Akeno.
“I dedicated myself a lot, I wanted first place, but it was not such a good day,” explained Cardoso. “But I was third and I was very happy.”
Brazil also owned the top spot on the podium in the wheelchair category with Leonardo de Melo winning on the men’s side and Aline dos Santos Rocha winning on the female side.