Thursday, 22 September 2011

Kenyan Dominance Highlights Great Half


Bupa Great North Run, Newcastle to South Shields, Sunday 18th September

Kenyan men enjoy 1-2-3, Kabuu a surprise runaway winner whilst Pavey and Clitheroe impress, WRITES NICOLA BAMFORD.

In the 31st edition of the annual 13.1-mile festival of distance-running, 54,000 runners made their way from Newcastle to South Shields in the popular event which boasts the title as the world’s best half-marathon in mainly dry, mild conditions.

With eye-catching times of 58:56 and 67:06, respectively, the two Kenyan victors in the elite races showcased dominant displays with a nine-second course record for Martin Mathathi and a surprising third-fastest time ever at the event for Lucy Kabuu.

The duo know each other well, having trained together over in Japan in the past and for Mathathi, the outstanding performance and 52-second lifetime best signalled a return to fresh legs since placing fifth in the recent World championships 10,000m final in Daegu.

For Kabuu meanwhile, her 2:21 winning-margin and 2:41 personal best emphasised her return to form after being off the radar for two years since giving birth to her daughter Angel 16-months ago.

Brave Kabuu Silences Critics, Strong Comeback for Pavey, Promising Debut for Clitheroe

A succession of relentlessly-fast five-minute-miling ensured Lucy Kabuu will be a name to look out for in the build-up to the Olympics next summer, as the precociously-talented Kenyan has her eye on 10,000m glory in London after destroying the elite women’s field in South Tyneside.

The 27-year-old only made the decision to compete a fortnight earlier yet her preparations with countrywomen World 5,000m and 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruyiot and Linet Masai evidently enabled her to perform in a different class against a stellar field.

The 2006 Commonwealth 10,000m champion conserved her energy in the initial miles, as Britain’s Jo Pavey, Helen Clitheroe and Freya Murray joined 2010 and 2009 winners Berhane Adere and Jessica Augusto in the leading pack.

Going through miles one to three in 5:16, 10:31 (5:15) and 15:36 (5:05)/5km (16:08), the twelve-strong group gradually dwindled down to eight, with Kabuu, Irene Jerotich and Adere now the main protagonists.

With Pavey and Clitheroe – the latter making her debut at the distance - 50-metres adrift, four-miles was reached by Kabuu in another fine 5:17 split (20:53), as Mara Yamauchi was evidently having an off-day, 100m further back from her fellow British duo.

Around the five-mile point – reached in 26:00 after an outstanding 5:07 mile from the leader – Kabuu stretched further on during a steep uphill stretch which left Adere and Augusto trailing, as Pavey worked alongside Jerotich back in fifth.

As mile six passed in 30:49 courtesy of a breathtaking 4:49 split, the 2008 Olympic 10,000 seventh-placer was enjoying a comfortable 200m lead, leading critics to question whether she would ‘hit the wall’ in the latter stages.

Reaching in the 10km point in 31:52 and going through miles seven and eight in 35:43 (4:54) and 40:43 (5:00), however, it was obvious that the crowds were witnessing a magnificent performance which would remain as consistent as her technique in the final stages.

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Ethiopian Adere, the former World half-marathon champion, was suffering as she quickly relinquished a handful of positions whilst Portugal’s Augusto and Marissa Barros remained strong.

One hundred metres back, Pavey and Clitheroe were working together in fourth and fifth, proving that they were over injury (foot, for the former) and the recent World 5,000m championship final.

Meanwhile, though, 38-year-old 2008 Olympic marathon sixth-placer Mara Yamauchi dropped out just after the eight-mile mark, perhaps still struggling to find her fitness since an ongoing hamstring injury kept her out of Daegu. The 2009 London marathon runner-up will however, still hope to chase the Olympic qualifying time in her former homeland Japan this coming November.

Scorching through nine and ten miles with 5:11 (45:54)/15km in 47:27 and 5:04 miles (50:58), Kabuu was still well clear of the chasers as Augusto – who was sporting a new tattoo of her late father’s name on her arm – and Barros held their positions from the British pair.

With eleven and twelve miles passed in 56:13 (5:15) and 61:30 (5:17)/20km 63:44 – the latter being the slowest since mile four – it appeared the Kabuu was finally beginning to tire but with no-one in sight along the coastline behind her, the diminutive African was still assured of her victory.

Sprinting to a 5:10 clocking through 13-miles (66:40), she rallied strongly in the final metres to enjoy her biggest road win to date in 67:06 as Augusto – the European cross-country champion - came through for second in 69:27 and Barros –
recently ninth in the World marathon - placing third with 70:29.

2008 third-placer Pavey enjoyed a solid run-out before the New York marathon in November by claiming fourth in a promising 70:49 while Clitheroe – the 37-year-old Preston Harrier and European indoor 3,000m champion – finished fifth in an encouraging 70:57, beating Commonwealth marathon champion Jerotich (71:03) only a day after placing second in the one-mile race for Team GB.

The third British finisher was Freya Murray, 28, in tenth with 72:44 on her debut at the distance, bounced back from injury to beat a tiring Adere (twelfth in 74:07).

A delighted winner explained afterwards:

“I’m very happy to win the race today. I left Japan to train in Kenya after having my baby girl Angel and I was confident I was going to win.”

“This is only my second half-marathon (first in 2003) so I’m happy learn the race - I decided the pace was too slow and I wasn’t scared of them catching me.”

“I enjoyed the race and hope to come here again. My plan is to win the 10,000m at the Olympics next year – Vivian is strong but so am I, I have confidence in myself.”

Already with the Olympic standard under her belt from the London marathon back in April, Exeter Harrier Pavey, 37, revealed:

“I’m pleased to be back racing after a frustrating injury but I would have liked to gone a bit quicker, though it puts me in good stead for New York.”

“The atmosphere was amazing - I really enjoyed it despite the lack of fitness and it was lovely to have Helen with me, she ran really well and helped me a lot.”

“I now need to get in a few more long runs and tempo work and also focus on my track kilometre reps. I’ll stay training between Devon and London as I have everything I need there and I’ll also get some physiological testing done prior to New York.”

An encouraged Clitheroe of Preston Harriers’ said:

“I really had no expectations today, especially having not trained specifically for it and having raced in the mile yesterday so I didn’t have a time in mind.”

“After a worrying patch at three miles for both Jo and I, we re-grouped and ran well together. I really enjoyed it – it was a lot more fun than I imagined - I felt like doing cartwheels down the finishing straight as I was so happy to see it.”

“I’ll next go to Kenya for altitude training in November then possibly do a road race or two around Christmas/New Year to see where I’m at. The indoor season is still under discussion but if I do, I won’t race much as the 5,000m is still my main aim for the summer.”

Clean-Sweep for Kenyans, Strong Debut for Gerrard

Martin Mathathi ripped up the rulebook by pushing London marathon winner Emmanuel Mutai into third place as the Kenyan trio – including runner-up Jonathan Maiyo – secured the first ever clean-sweep in the event’s history.

Following in the footsteps of his compatriots and past great victors such as Paul Tergat, John Mutai and Martin Lel – the latter who withdrew from the event mid-week citing illness – Mathathi crossed the finish-line thirty-one seconds clear of Maiyo (59:27) and Mutai (59:52) in an equally dominant display to Kabuu’s earlier run.

With World 5,000m champion Mo Farah – the previous day’s two-mile winner for Team GB – setting the runners off on their way, the first mile was reached in 4:32 with Morocco’s two-time world marathon champion Jaouad Gharib and Mutai to the fore, alongside Kenyans Commonwealth marathon gold-medallist John Kelai and 2008 Olympic 10,000m third-placer Micah Kogo.

Going through two-miles in 9:02 (4:30), Japan-based Mathathi – the world junior record-holder for ten-miles - led an eight-man pack and took them through the three-mile mark in 13:27 (4:25), the 5km point in 13:56 and four-mile in 18:00 (4:33).

Going through five-miles in 22:36, Kogo, Maiyo and Mathathi began to push on after a 4:36 mile which left Mutai and Gharib 10m adrift before Maiyo asserted his authority with a temporary ten-metre advantage.

Passing six-miles, 10km and seven-miles in 26:54 (4:18), 27:49 and 31:13 (4:19), respectively, it was Mathathi’s turn to pull clear, as he comfortably stretched out to a 100m lead with 4:24 (35:37), 4:35 (40:12), 4:29 (44:41) and 4:39 (49:20) mile splits through the eighth to eleventh mile marks.

Storming through twelve miles in 53:51 (4:31), it was evident the 25-year-old 2007 world 10,000m bronze-medallist was on course to break Zersanay Tadesse’s 59:05 course record and, sprinting down the final 200m after passing thirteen miles in 58:30 (4:39), Mathathi was rewarded with a big lifetime best in 58:56 and the sixth-fastest mark of all-time.

Better known as a marathon pacemaker, 23-year-old Maiyo improved on his third place from the 2007 Great South Run to finish runner-up in a 59:27 personal best from London marathon silver-medallist Mutai in 59:52.

Former world record-holder for ten-miles, Kogo finished in fourth with 60:43 from France’s Abdellatif Meft (61:02) and 2010 third-placer Gharib in sixth with 61:31.
Top British man was 25-year-old Keith Gerrard who on his debut for the distance, ran a very encouraging 63:39 to just sneak in the top ten.

The winner revealed afterwards:

“I was hoping to win as I did a lot of speed-work for Daegu - it was a nice course and I pulled clear around five miles – I could tell I was faster than the others by the way they were running.”

“I didn’t expect such a fast time but I like running on road and I now look forward to trying a marathon after the Olympics.”

“I feel honoured to break the course record and do my fastest ever time. The fans cheered me all the way and gave me motivation. Now I plan to beat my 10km personal record and try for the Olympic 10,000m.”

Maiyo explained:

“I was confident of winning and felt strong but Martin’s pace was too hard for me to keep with.”

“I was happy to have the people cheering for me, it’s a nice place and the organisation is good.”

Meanwhile, Mutai said:

“The race for me was quite different. After 5km, I had a stiff back, which was been troubling me for some time now so it slowed me down. I have had treatment on it this week but I still hoped my skill would help me to win.”

Gerrard, the Newham and Essex Beagles athlete – who has to train in Loughborough and London due to a lack of training partners back home on the Isle of Man - said afterwards:

“I’m happy as it was my first ever half and I haven’t raced much in the last few weeks so it’s a good start in the event for me.”

“I’m delighted to be the first Brit and tenth is pretty good. I felt strong and only had a stomach problem in the last two-miles so I managed to hold on.”

Other British men to break into the top twenty were Ian Hudspith (15th in 64:14),
Matt O’Dowd (17th in 64:32), John Beattie (18th in 64:50), Darren Deed (19th in 64:58) and Andy Vernon (20th in 65:45) the day after finishing eighth for Team GB in the two-mile race.

Woods Defends, Cassidy Wins with Weir Absent

Canadian Josh Cassidy built on his 2008 victory here by winning the men’s wheelchair race by almost a minute in 43:57.

The 26-year-old London marathon winner took advantage of the absence of four-time Great North winner David Weir, as the Briton withdrew two days before with a shoulder injury, also having become a father for the first time during the week.

Second place went to France’s 46-year-old Denis Lemuiner (44:48) and Sweden’s Aron Anderson, 23 finished in third with 47:07.

In the women’s race, three-time and reigning champion Shelly Woods, enjoyed a 2:30 winning-margin to take her fourth victory in 50:14.

The 25-year-old from Blackpool revealed afterwards:

“I hit the front early and that’s the first time I’ve ever been in that position so I went all out as I knew Amanda has a fast finish.”

In second place, the USA’s 2009 champion Amanda McGrory clocked 52:43 and last year's runner-up, Italy’s Francesca Porcellato, 41, finished in third place in 55:01.

Global Medal Quintet Lead USA Masterclass


Great North CityGames, Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside, Saturday 17th September

An outclassed Team GB suffered a 7-3 loss in the annual two-nation street match, WRITES NICOLA BAMFORD.

An American squad buoyed by two recently-crowned world champions, a silver medal-winning duo and a bronze-medallist from the World Championships in Daegu earlier this month, combined to make their CityGames debuts against a high-calibre yet mostly fatigued Great Britain and Northern Ireland outfit.

For a third consecutive year, the Newcastle-Gateshead quayside played host to a purpose-built track whilst the iconic Tyne and Millennium Bridges witnessed road and field competitions on and around them on a day which represented the last competitive appearance of the season for the majority.

After the England squads defeated the Australian’s in the last two editions, it was
Team GB’s chance to face the mighty United States in a match where World 5,000m champion Mo Farah, World 1,500m runner-up Hannah England and UK 100m silver-medallist Harry Aikines-Aryeetey gave the home team impressive victories to cheer for.

Jeter and Dix Supreme, UK Records for Onoura and Devonish

Sprint queen Carmelita Jeter shrugged off the effects from a scintillating 10.78 in the Brussels Diamond League the previous evening and the long journey to arrive at the event only four hours before to storm to a 16.50 unofficial World Record in the women’s 150m event.

The World 100m champion and second-fastest of all time in the discipline scorched away in the expected usual fashion to come home ahead of UK 200m champion Anyika Onoura, who in turn registered a 16.90 British record.

The American revealed afterwards:

“Running a 150m straightway was different but I enjoyed coming here and it was a great experience.

“I’m happy with my time yesterday and today so I hope the crowd enjoyed the performance I gave.”

Now with a six-week break to look forward to, the double 100m and 200m Diamond League series winner continued:

“I wanted to experience England before getting into training for 2012 and this was the icing on the cake of a great season for me.”

Liverpool’s 26-year-old Onoura, meanwhile, finished ahead of Commonwealth 200m runner-up Abi Oyepitan (16.96), with the USA’s Dawn Harper – in her second race of the day after taking the 100m hurdles in a 12.73 meeting record from team-mate Danielle Carruther’s (12.77) – finishing fourth with 17.19.

Following the world’s fourth-fastest ever 200m time of 19.53 in Brussels, another American – Walter Dix – dominated the men’s equivalent here with an eye-catching 14.65 display to miss triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt’s meeting record by just 0.3-seconds.

The recent World silver-medallist over both the 100m and 200m, Dix also pulled 35-year-old Marlon Devonish to beat his own British record with an impressive 14.87 run.

A potential party-pooper for the three-way Jamaican aim for next year’s Olympics,
Dix explained:

“That was a fun race after I got the serious one out of the way last night.

“Having the crowd so close was really enjoyable and also different from running in circles.

“I’m happy with the time after the PR last night but I thought I’d get the WR record today - I’m on an adrenaline rush after only two-hours’ sleep but last night showed I can mix it with Bolt and Blake next year.”

A delighted Devonish meanwhile, said:

“It went really well but there’s room for improvement.

“It was the biggest crowd we’ve ever had here and I really enjoyed it.

“Another British record is great and I’m extremely happy - to be so close to Walter
Dix puts me in good stead for next year, which will be my last.”

Stressful Prep But Mo Keeps His Cool

Enjoying a very warm reception in the billed ‘homecoming’ race since capturing his first global title and 10,000m silver in South Korea, Farah brushed off being taken to the wrong start-line and an unavailable toilet stop to scorch to a comfortable five-second victory in the men’s two-mile race.

A day before official starting duties in the Bupa Great North Run, the 28-year-old Oregon-based runner added to his 2006 and 2008 glories here and admitted to being inspired by his training partner Galen Rupp’s 26:48 American record in Brussels the night before.

Guided by Alberto Salazar, Farah turned down the opportunity to race in Belgium himself where he would have been set to potentially win the Diamond League series and $40,000 but true to his words and indeed his roots, he decided to dazzle the north-west crowds in return for their support during a magical year.

“I really enjoyed the reception I was given here and I really enjoyed it,” Farah explained.

“I love competing here and it was awesome to have so many people cheering for me.

“My legs felt alright but my chest was burning a bit as I eased back on the training recently but I had enough in me to do well this weekend.”

The 8:37.72 winning time preceded the USA’S Brian Ollinger in second place with 8:42.15 and 21-year-old steeplechase specialist James Wilkinson clocking 8:49.12 for sixth was the next best of the Brits.

Richardson and Lagat Live Up to Expectations

With four of the top five men from Daegu, the men’s 110m hurdles was always going to be a thrilling show and world champion Jason Richardson led an American 1-2 to prove winning is now his favourite thing to do.

Crossing the line in 13.16, Richardson obliterated the CityGames record and again beat Olympic bronze-medallist David Oliver (13.36), who was only fourth in South Korea.

The winner revealed afterwards:

“My race went well after getting over the distractions with the helicopter in this city environment but I got a good start and executed well.

“It was an amazing experience for my first street race and Daegu was the perfect storm in my case – I wish it was run under cleaner circumstances but I did the best I could.”

Running through the pain barrier courtesy of an ongoing hamstring injury, William Sharman finally got the better of Andy Turner in a fierce battle of the Brits here, clocking 13.82 to the world bronze-medallist’s 14.08 - Turner, having appeared to have paid the price for several races on the continent in the past week.

An athlete who barely disappoints – American distance-running legend Bernard Lagat – avoided a mouth-watering clash with Farah by contesting the one-mile event but still managed to wow the crowds with a dominant 4:06.01 winning-display.

Britain’s Andrew Osagie stepped up in distance after reaching the 800m semi-final stage in Daegu to place a fine third in 4:09.53, ahead of team-mates Bruce Raeside and Luke Gunn (4:10.23 and 4:12.78) in fourth and fifth, respectively.

The victor explained:

“It (the event) was really fun, I really enjoyed my run and it was really unique – I’ve never done anything like this in so many years.”

Next competing in the Fifth Avenue road mile in New York this weekend, Lagat continued:

“It is so nice and the sport needs this kind of exposure. It was also good to run well and win.”

Osagie, the 23-year-old UK champion, meanwhile, revealed:

“It was a decent result for me, coming from an 800m background.

“The pace wasn’t too bad and I felt strong throughout but it was just a bit too quick for me today.

“It was great racing Lagat, he took the pace on and was another class - I joked with him to keep it slow so I’d have a chance.”

Deja-vu for England, Victory for Harry AA, Disappointment for Dwight

Surprise runner-up over the metric mile at the World’s, Hannah England enjoyed a more expected victory here, as she replicated her 2010 win here with a 4:39.49 one-mile clocking over European 3,000m indoor champion Helen Clitheroe of Preston Harriers (4:40.65).

After running 4:02.07 to just miss her lifetime best when finishing fifth in Brussels just hours earlier, England sprinted past her British team-mate, who at 37, is thirteen years her senior and also who competed in the Bupa Great North Run the following day – in the closing stages to end her season on a high.

Afterwards, the winner divulged:

“I love this event – it means a lot to me and it’s my third time here and third win
so I’m really happy.

“I was injured for the beginning of the season so I just thought I’d do the two races back to back. It was good to feel strong at the end and after last night and arriving here this morning, I was really pleased with that.”

Perhaps fatigued after capturing the Diamond League series title in recent days, World 800m indoor silver-medallist Jenny Meadows finished back in fourth with 4:44.9.

Less than 24-hours after competing in the race in which Usain Bolt set a world-leading 9.76, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey bounced back from Daegu relay disappointment to take the 100m event here.

Sprinting to a 10.27 victory after registering 10.14 the previous evening, the 23-year-old UK runner-up got the better of his British counterpart European 200m silver-
medallist Christian Malcolm (10.45).

Explaining his thoughts on the race, the winner said:

“It was a cool race and I managed to do the job for GB despite the travel and lack of sleep last night.

“It’s such a great event - we need more of these at the beginning and end of the season – I wouldn’t mind coming here for this every week.”

Four-time and recent world long-jump champion Dwight Phillips of the USA suffered from a major off-day after registering three no-jumps and landing a best of only 5.01m.

American Jeremey Hicks took advantage to win with 7.84m in the first round from Newham and Essex Beagle’s JJ Jegede (7.72m) and Ezekiel Ewulo (7.51).

UK record-holder and European under23 champion Holly Bleasdale also had a bad day at the office as she was forced to compete without her own poles in the pole-vault competition.

With her equipment still to be retrieved from Heathrow airport after landing there from Daegu a fortnight ago, the 19-year-old Blackburn Harrier was evidently disadvantaged and managed only 4.12m after three misses at 4.27m to finish runner-up behind American Becky Holliday (4.27m).