Wednesday, 8 July 2009

BUPA Great Yorkshire Run – an insider’s review (written for Running Fitness 09/07).

Thousands of runners from all over the UK and of all abilities took part in the inaugural BUPA Great Yorkshire Run, as the event made its debut in the heart of Sheffield’s vibrant city centre on Sunday, 9th September, writes Nicola Bamford.

The undulating 10km city centre route proved a fabulous addition to the Great Run calendar of events and was an overwhelming success.

John Kibowen and Benita Johnson confirmed their status as pre-race favourites by claiming the titles at the elite end of the field, as the world-class stars took their respective races by the scruff of the neck from the outset.

Two-times World cross-country champion, Kibowen of Kenya outclassed the opposition with a lead of 150 metres, clocking an impressive 28:40 over the 6.25 mile route. The runner-up spot went to Australian marathon runner, Andrew Letherby with 29:04, followed by a 29:19 performance from former Ethiopian refugee Tomas Abyu of Salford. Two-time Olympic marathon fourth-placer, Jon Brown, who, despite being based in Canada, belongs to City of Sheffield AC, claimed an encouraging fifth-place position on his return from injury. The run marked a significant improvement for Brown in his fight to regain full fitness; as he ran a useful 29:28 in only his second serious race since a breathing problem caused his withdrawal from the Flora London Marathon in April.

Brown, 36, is hoping to recover full fitness before next year's Olympic Games, after which he may retire. "I think my performance today indicates my breathing problems are finally over and at least much better," said Brown, who was forced to miss the recent World Championship marathon because of the illness. "Today although I'm still not fully 100 per cent, went a lot better and I was much more competitive." Brown is hoping to achieve the Beijing qualifying standard by the end of the year, and is targeting the Fukuoka marathon in early December to tackle the mark. His next outing will be at the BUPA Great North Run in September, in a step up to the half marathon distance.

Australia’s Johnson scored a runaway win to lift the women's title by over a minute, with an impressive time of 32min 55sec on a course with some testing inclines. Johnson, preparing for next month's Chicago marathon, finished comfortably ahead of Brits, Birhane Dagne and Vicky Gill who recorded marks of 34:02 and 34:06, respectively.

"That's a good comeback after the World Championships where I fell in the 10th lap," said Johnson who was involved in a pile up during the 10,000m event in Osaka, subsequently finishing a disappointing 17th."It's good for my confidence to come back and run such a good time after what happened. The win is pointing me in the right direction and shows I'm well prepared, before I go to the USA. I felt so strong, particularly in the last 5km, although I was running on my own,” claimed Johnson on a race in which your writer finished 11th on her 10km debut.

Following the organised BUPA crowd warm-up, the mass race lived up to expectations; with a 4,500-strong field descending upon the city on a mild, sunny Sunday morning. The atmosphere was buoyed by substantial crowds and energy-lifting music along the course, which included a television screen situated at the half-way mark and a thoughtful run-through shower to cool the competitors ahead of the uphill finish into the picturesque Peace Gardens, in the welcoming city centre ambience. The BUPA Great Yorkshire Run Business Challenge and Tesco Junior and mini Great Yorkshire Runs attracted hundreds of businesses and children alike, as the competitors on the day received a Great Run t-shirt, finishers medal and goody bag.

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