Exciting weekend of road-running action sees Kenenisa Bekele return to form and records-a-plenty in Paris and Rotterdam
The ‘Queen versus Emperor’ race between Paula Radcliffe and Haile Gebrselassie in Vienna may not have resulted in the exciting finish that many were hoping for, but elsewhere around Europe there were several high-profile races that all produced stunning results.
Before today, Kenenisa Bekele was last seen finishing a distant 11th in the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross, looking a shadow of the man who won multiple World Cross titles. But the 5000m and 10,000m world record-holder today looked more like the athlete who won the distance double at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships.
Competing at the Spar Great Ireland Run in Dublin, Bekele made a rare appearance over 10km on the roads to shatter the course record by 46 seconds, clocking 27:50. It improved his PB for the distance by seven seconds and saw him cross the line a full minute ahead of two-time European Cross silver medallist Ayam Lamdassem of Spain.
Ever since winning the world 5000m and 10,000m titles in 2009, Bekele had struggled with injury. He returned to action at last year’s World Championships in an attempt to defend his title, but he failed to finish the 10,000m. The Ethiopian ended the year by posting the year’s fastest time for 10,000m, but the question marks over his form resurfaced with his disappointing run earlier this year in Edinburgh.
With the Olympics just a few months away, Bekele has now let his feet do the talking and his performance will not go unnoticed by Britain’s Mo Farah, the world 5000m champion, who will doubtless be one of Bekele’s biggest rivals should he make it to the London Games this summer.
The women’s race in Dublin was won by Britain’s Gemma Steel. She defeated the defending champion, Charlotte Purdue, to win in 32:04. French marathon record-holder Christelle Daunay was third, ahead of European indoor 3000m champion Helen Clitheroe.
In recent years the Paris Marathon has established itself as one of the quickest courses in the world, and it reaffirmed that status today as Kenya’s Simon Biwott and Ethiopia’s Tirfi Beyene posted the fastest ever times witnessed in the city, despite the cold and windy conditions.
In the men’s race, the lead group passed through the 5km and 10km markers in 14:56 and 29:21. The pace continued to gradually increase and at 15km (44:31), it was clear they were on for a course record. At half-way, reached in 61:51, the leaders were almost a minute ahead of course record schedule and looked set for a sub-2:05 clocking.
When the pacemakers dropped out at 14km, Biwott was left in the lead, followed by Ethiopian duo Raji Assefa and Sisay Jisa. But Biwott – who won last month’s Paris Half-marathon with a PB of 59:44 – was too good and went through 35km in 1:42:50 – more than two minutes ahead of the course record pace.
But the uphill closing stages took its toll on Biwott, who slowed down slightly when he was assured the victory, crossing the line in 2:05:11 to smash his PB by almost two minutes. More than a minute later, Assefa (2:06:23) and Jisa (2:06:26) crossed the finish line – for Assefa, it was a PB by more than four minutes, while Jisa’s time was an impressive debut performance.
Tirfi Beyene finished third in the women’s race two years ago, but went into today’s race as the fastest entrant and she did not disappoint. As with the men’s race, the pace gradually increased – 17:01 at 5km, 35:02 at 10km and 50:26 at 15km.
She still led at half way (reached in 70:45), but was still some 45 seconds off the course record pace. The Ethiopian quickly remedied that though with an injection of pace and soon found herself alone at the front. She continued to push the pace, hopeful of impressing the selectors for the Ethiopian Olympic marathon team.
Beyene crossed the line in 2:21:39, reducing her PB by a minute. Sultan Haydar broke the Turkish record in second place with her 2:25:07.
Rotterdam has seen its fair share of marathon world records over the years, with Carlos Lopes, Belayneh Densamo and Tegla Loroupe all having broken new ground there in the past. For a brief moment in today’s men’s race, it looked as though the Dutch city would make a reappearance in the marathon world-record books, but ultimately the event had to make do with two sub-2:05 performances.
Arguably the more notable performance though was that of Tiki Gelana, who became the fourth-fastest woman ever over the marathon, breaking the Ethiopian record in the process.
It was Gelana’s second victory in a Dutch marathon, having won in Amsterdam last October with a then PB of 2:22:08. But today she smashed those figures as she went out hard from the outset and ended even faster. She covered 5km in 16:14 and reached half-way in 69:31 – less than a minute slower than the 68:48 half-marathon PB she set in Marugame earlier this year.
The 24-year-old maintained that pace throughout the second half before unleashing a ferocious sprint finish over the final few kilometres. That finishing effort saw her clock 2:18:57 – a performance bettered only by world record-holder Paula Radcliffe, two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba and world marathon majors winner Liliya Shobukhova.
Almost five minutes later, Valeria Straneo crossed the line in 2:23:43 to set an Italian record, comfortably ahead of Ethiopia’s Merima Hasen (2:25:47).
The men’s race at Rotterdam had witnessed 13 different Kenyan winners in the past 13 years, and Moses Mosop was favoured to be the next in line on that impressive list. On his marathon debut in Boston last year he finished a close second in 2:03:06 on the unratifiable course, then later in the year won the Chicago Marathon with a course record of 2:05:37. Marathon fans were eager to see what the 26-year-old was capable of on a flat, fast and legal course.
He did not disappoint as he set an official PB of 2:05:03 – but on the day it was only good enough for third place. Yemane Adhane put an end to the Kenyan dominance in Rotterdam to lead an Ethiopian 1-2, both athletes dipping under 2:05.
The large lead group went through half way in 61:38 – eight seconds faster than Patrick Makau’s split when he broke the world record last year. Four kilometres later, Adhane and team-mate Getu Feleke had opened up a gap on Mosop and they were still up on world record pace.
Over the following 10km, their speed dropped slightly and the chances of a world record disappeared, but one thing looked certain – that there would be an Ethiopian winner. Over the closing kilometres it was Adhane who pushed forward and he went on to cross the line in 2:04:48, two seconds ahead of Feleke.
Adhane was fourth at the 2009 World Championships, and earlier this year he took one second off his PB when he finished 10th in a high-quality race in Dubai, clocking 2:06:29. But today in Rotterdam – in his fourth marathon in just over five months – Adhane smashed his PB to become the third-fastest Ethiopian of all-time behind world record-holder Haile Gebrselassie and current world leader Ayele Abshero.
Feleke’s time was also a PB, improving on the 2:05:44 he ran when winning in Amsterdam two years ago. Mosop held on well to finish third in 2:05:03 with the rest of the field far back. Fourth place went to Stephen Kibet of Kenya in 2:08:05.