The Lisbon Half Marathon grew from the desire of a small group to see Lisbon invaded by people who, by crossing the Bridge 25th of April, would discover and enjoy places usually monopolized by cars in a totally different way. It was a huge challenge for the time.
Looking at the big bridge, impressive in its steel structure and giant feet plunging into the Tagus River, the idea arose in the mind of Carlos Móia in a restaurant.
This had already been done abroad, but in Portugal, a country of conservative habits, the challenge would have to overcome many barriers. “I remember crossing the bridge on foot was a dangerous idea. As the subject had to pass through government, I soon realized this would be a long, bureaucratic process. I spoke to my friend and companion of other adventures, Francisco Lucas Pires, who knew which paths to follow to execute this ‘crazy’ idea. He scheduled a hearing with the President of the Republic at the time, Mário Soares, who then took the matter to the Minister of Public Works, Ferreira do Amaral.
From there on came many days of silence. I didn’t give up, so I asked a hearing to the Minister, who told me to wait for an opinion by the office responsible for constructing the bridge in the United States, whether the structure could cope with an event such as this. Impossible without it! I thought there was no political will and felt disappointed, but I didn’t quit and insisted so much that the Minister eventually told me he would give his authorization if, as a replacement for the request opinion, I assumed responsibility for it. I obviously didn’t. I admit fear was greater than the desire to advance. If the Minister himself felt the need to request a technical opinion to the Eiffel company that built it, who was I to assume such responsibility?
“The information I longed for arrived soon: there was no danger, the bridge deck could cope with the challenge without problems. I assembled the team in a lightning quick operation: Mário Machado, Rafael Marques, Reinaldo Gomes were the mainstays, others joined in.”
After the bridge crossing was approved, it was time to get support from the Mayor of Lisbon, Jorge Sampaio. “He was a safe haven,” recalls Carlos Móia, “soon realizing the importance the event could have in projecting the city and always believing in the Half Marathon’s potential over the years”. And so it went, Sampaio was linked to the start of the event that, years later, he would participate in as President of the Republic.
On March 17th, 1991, began the official history of the Half Marathon, as the Minister of Education, Roberto Carneiro, who also oversaw sports, was in the first group of people ever to walk across the Bridge 25th of April.
Rosa Mota was the main attraction. She had just learned American journals Track & Fields News and Runners World, the Bible and Koran of races, elected her marathon runner of the year. “Rosa was the first person I recalled when I was certain the event we would start off. Some people told me to think twice, that any marathon runner like her would demand over $50,000 dollars, and she not only told me yes right away, but also didn’t charge a penny. It speaks of the athlete she was, but mostly of her character,” recalls Móia.
An event familiar to other major cities in the world, it was still a novelty in Lisbon, and crossing the bridge on foot was a complete discovery. “I was so afraid I didn’t dare look down. For many meters I closed my eyes not to be scared,” Rosa Mota recalls the now distant experience of 1991.
Since then, Olympic champions, world record holders, football coaches, Presidents of the Republic and Prime Ministers passed through here, but what truly makes this event unique is the thousands and thousands of anonymous people experiencing the joy of crossing the bridge under their own steam.