WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
Action: BUPA Great Yorkshire Run, Sheffield, September 5th.
Words: Nicola Bamford
Duly following the form book, a mixed international field gave the steel city an exciting Sunday morning wake-up call.
In a race ideal for getting one over your close rival, Australian Craig Mottram and Scotland’s Freya Murray did just that, capitalising on their current fine form and knowledge of the hilly city-centre course.
With the Nova International train storming through another city in its’ usual outstanding fashion, the organisers continued their 2010 season as well as the athletes themselves and subsequently raised the participant level to double of that in the inaugural 2007 event.
It was the wizard from Oz who created a glimpse of the magic that propelled him to World 5,000m bronze five years ago in winning this men’s 10,000m road event.
Craig Mottram’s eye-opening finishing speed saw him confidently clinch a 28:50 victory over Britain’s Chris Thompson, who arrived at the hotel around midnight after travelling up from a friend’s wedding in Hampshire, a mere second adrift.
The duo shared the lead on various occasions – clocking consistent kilometre splits of around 2:50, reaching the half-way point in 14:09 and pulling clear after 8km from Finland’s Jussi Utrianen (29:02) and the second Brit Andrew Lemoncello (29:08) in third and fourth, respectively.
Flying into Yorkshire five days beforehand, ‘Buster,’ as Mottram is affectionately known by fans and the press, scouted out the course in the countdown to the race in which he gained revenge over the man who convincingly beat him over 3,000m at the IAAF Diamond League in Crystal Palace last month.
Now recovered from a long-term Achilles injury and having turned down several lucrative offers to continue his comeback in events over the Pond, the 28-year-old confirmed his fitness in scintillating fashion and was happy with his mornings work:
“I was happy that we went out strong. Chris did a good job and at 3km I settled in nicely and when we turned into the wind at 5km, Chris had had enough at the front so a few of us tested the pace and I surged with 2km go to go, as did Chris again to break it up.
I pushed hard on the hills and ran aggressively and I felt alright. I’ve had a pretty relaxed year with getting back into racing so I’m probably a lot fresher than the other guys but it’s good for me to win a race in Europe. I’ve got the Great City-Games two-mile in Newcastle (Sept 18) coming up, which will be another fun test.”
Still on cloud nine from his recent European 10,000m silver medal and seemingly a new more confident athlete, Thompson was gracious in defeat as the 29-year-old Oregon-based runner remained in positive mood following his third-successive (and highest) appearance in this event following an equally-frustrating battle with injury in recent years:
“I took it out from the gun which I didn’t expect but it was a good honest pace. The wind on the way back made it a cat and mouse race but I fancied my chances in the last kilometre so I put an effort in with 2km to go and I did a bit of damage. Mottram went with 400m to go and although I finished fast, he was stronger.
I’m trying to muster up a second wind for the Commonwealth’s (in New Delhi next month) so I’ve been training through races recently. I’m starting to wobble a bit but the time’s worth maybe twenty-seconds quicker on a flatter course in better conditions so I’m chuffed. I need to find another gear if I want a medal in the Commonwealths but I’ve not fallen apart yet.”
Further down the field in sixth place was 39-year-old Stefano Baldini in a highly respectable 29:33. The 2004 Olympic marathon champion was presented with a special gift after what transpired to be his final ever race on UK shores as he approaches competitive retirement at the end of this month.
The politely-spoken Italian explained: “The race was ok, 14:09 was my season’s best for the distance (at half-way) and coming back in the second half was really hard, particularly the last 400m. It was a nice race and my first time in the city of Sheffield. Thank-you very much to the organisers for inviting me – It’s been a great pleasure to come to the UK.
I decided to continue in 2010 because of the European Championships (in Barcelona last month) but after the bad experience in the marathon, I decided to retire indefinitely. Now I will work for the Italian federation in youth projects and in the future I hope to have also a job with the marathon team. I have been an international athlete since I was a junior – I competed in the 1989 European junior championships. I will miss racing because I enjoy competing but I will continue to run two to four times per week for my fitness.”
The biggest smile of the day was reserved for Chester-le-Street’s Freya Murray, who not only retained her title in this event but more importantly, gained the upper-hand over her much younger but still imperiously-talented rival, Charlotte Purdue.
The 27-year-old Edinburgh-born runner convincingly turned the tables from Cardiff last weekend, where the 19-year-old Purdue sped to a superb 15:23.4 5,000m clocking on the track over Murray’s 15:26.5 in the BMC Grand Prix Final.
Here, benefitting from racing with the elite and regional-level men, Murray registered 33:01 – after a 16:25 5km clocking - ahead of Purdue’s 33:06 to add to her impressive collection of BUPA Great Run victories of late. Charnwood’s Gemma Steel was third in 33:57.
A delighted Murray said afterwards: “I was really pleased. It was a real tussle and when it got to the last kilometre, we picked it up and again at 800m so it came down to a real sprint finish. This race is special to me after last years’ race so I really enjoyed the experience and the organisers look after us well.
The Commonwealth’s are the big focus – I was away in Boulder, Colorado in May (at high altitude) so that meant that I started my season later than usual which has helped me. I’m feeling really fresh, am pleased with the win and I’m looking forward to Delhi. It’s great that Charlotte’s back after a bad injury so it’s good to see her back racing and it’s good that it’s one race each now so Delhi will be the decider!”
Purdue, last year’s European junior 5,000m runner-up, will be making her senior major championship debut in New Delhi in a 5,000m-10,000m double, following her outstanding 32:36.75 run in Tipton last month.
Following an operation to recover from a stress-fracture in the knee last spring, the Aldershot runner is evidently proving what she is made of, showing the kind of determination which will stand her in good stead for her upcoming goal for the year.
Purdue revealed: “It was ok, I prefer to win obviously and we were together until the last 300m so it was a tough uphill sprint finish. I felt really easy, which is a big boost ahead of the Commonwealth’s to feel that comfortable and it’s a road personal best.
We’ll be racing each over in both distances in Delhi and we push each other on. I feel really fresh after only starting my season in June so I’ve got a lot of training left until a having a break after the Commonwealth’s, which I’m really looking forward to. I want to get a PB in both. It will be a really good experience for the future especially with the 2012 Olympics – it’s good that I’ve been selected at such a young age.”