WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
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.”
“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.