Olympic 5000m finalist overcomes strong men’s Cross Challenge line-up, while Gemma Steel clinches the women’s race
Julia Bleasdale wins season opener in CarlsbadMarch 30, 2014
Olympian moves to third on UK all-time 5km list, as Dejen Gebremeskel wins men’s race and Bernard Lagat clocks US record
Julia Bleasdale started her season in style on Sunday, clocking 15:06 at the Carlsbad 5000 in California for a clear victory and to go third on the UK all-time list for 5km.
The double Olympic finalist’s recent block of training in Ethiopia has clearly paid off, as she crossed the line 16 seconds clear of runner-up Betsy Saina of Kenya to smash her previous 5km road best of 15:47 set at the same event two years ago. She was also just four seconds off her 5000m track personal best from the 2012 Olympics.
Ethiopia’s Etalemhu Habtewold clocked 15:23 for third as Brenda Martinez led the US athletes home with her 15:25 for fourth.
The result puts Bleasdale behind just Paula Radcliffe with 14:51 and Liz McColgan with 14:57 on the UK list.
“I haven’t raced in four months so it was good to get back on the racing scene,” said Bleasdale, who, after finishing sixth at the Carlsbad event in 2012, went on to finish eighth in the London Olympics over 5000m and 10,000m.
“I just wanted it to be a good, honest hard race. One mile in I was surprised it was that fast, it felt pretty easy. After two miles I wanted to give it a bit of a go and see what I could do because I knew that there were some big kickers in the field and knew that I would be out-kicked if they were still with me.”
On how this sets her up for the track season, she added: “It’s a bit of a confidence boost that I can win a race and use my strength to compete against girls who have that big kick. I’m working on my speed for the finish.”
The Hillingdon AC athlete missed last summer with injury but made her return over the winter, with results including a seventh-place finish at the European Cross Country Championships.
She was using the Carlsbad race as preparation for a meet in Stanford in May, where she will look to gain a Commonwealth Games qualifying time.
In the men’s race Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel continued his winning streak at this event, beating American Bernard Lagat for his fourth consecutive victory.
Behind Gebremeskel’s 13:13, 39-year-old Lagat clocked 13:19 for a national record. It was a debut outing over the distance on the roads for the American, who has three world indoor and two world outdoor track titles to his name and more recently won silver in the 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, where Gebremeskel bagged bronze.
Kenya’s Augustine Choge was third in California with 13:22.
Leonard Komon clocks fastest-ever half-marathon debut
Over at the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon and Kenya’s Leonard Komon won the men’s race, while Ethiopia’s Tadelech Bekele claimed victory in the women’s race.
Komon had world record-breaking hopes for his debut at the distance, but despite being 51 seconds off of Zersenay Tadese’s current record mark of 58:23 set in 2010, organisers did report his winning 59:14 to be the fastest-ever debut for the distance.
The Kenyan started strongly, passing 10km in 27:40, so 13 seconds faster than Tadese’s split for the same point. It wasn’t maintained in the second half, though, and the battle went from Komon and the clock to Komon and his countryman Abraham Cheroben.
Komon had the stronger finish for victory, as Cheroben ran under 60 minutes for the first time, clocking an identical time to his training partner for the runner-up spot. Their compatriot Richard Mengich was third with 60:17.
Bekele had a bigger winning margin of eight seconds in the women’s race as she clocked 70:05 for victory ahead of Kenya’s Agnes Mutune. Sabrina Mockenhaupt clocked 71:43 on home soil for third.