WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE (ON OCT 9TH)
Bupa Great Yorkshire Run, Sheffield, October 9th, 2011
Steel surprises marathon-bound Pavey, as Kogo dominates over Thompson, the runner-up again.
A month later than its usual date in the racing calendar, the annual 10km road race in the steel city of Sheffield enjoyed two dominating victories and thrilling finish-line battles in mild and breezy conditions, writes Nicola Bamford.
UK half-marathon champion Gemma Steel caused a stir when taking the notable scalp of 2012 Olympic marathon hopeful Jo Pavey in an impressive twenty second-winning margin with 32:52.
The 25-year-old Charnwood AC runner stepped up from placing third in the 2010 event to storm clear in the final two kilometres and capture her most impressive victory to date.
Guided by John Nuttall in Loughborough, Steel revealed afterwards:
“It was brilliant, I can’t believe I was running with Jo Pavey and beating her is a great achievement!”
After winning the Bristol half-marathon and finishing third in a below-par 33:47 in the Swansea Bay 10km recently, she continued:
“My legs were still tired in Swansea after doing the half-marathon so I’m really pleased with the time today, it’s only four seconds off my PB.”
Arguably one of the biggest breakthrough athletes on the female domestic distance-running circuit in recent seasons, Steel will next tackle the National road relay Championships in Sutton Coldfield next weekend before moving to the half-marathon at the Bupa Great Birmingham Run the following week.
“I want to do well there and I want to win the RunBritain Grand Prix road series,” explained Steel.
“I also want to do better than twenty-seventh from last year in the European cross (in Slovenia) this December.”
Pavey, meanwhile, was disappointed to clock only 33:12 in the runner-up position but cited the heavy mileage of marathon training as the understandable cause of her fatigue.
Focused on a strong performance in the New York marathon on November sixth, the 38-year-old Exeter Harrier managed to share the lead with Steel for much of the race but was left wanting for a turn of speed in the final mile.
“I didn’t feel very good as I’m in hard marathon training and I’m feeling it quite tough to race but that’s not taking anything away from Gemma as she ran really well and a good race,” the mother-of-one revealed.
Having already gained the Olympic marathon qualifying time from April’s London marathon, Pavey is keen to make up for the frustration of being forced to withdraw from Augusts’ World Championships in Daegu due to a foot injury.
Placing fourth in a solid 70:49 in the Bupa Great North Run last month will have gone some way to boosting her confidence and the former track star insists on looking at the bigger picture:
“It wasn’t a great run because I’m not easing down so I’m a bit disappointed but it’s a new scenario for me, not being able to prepare for races en route to the marathon.
“Hopefully today’s been a good blowout, though and training’s been going really well so I’m still positive for New York.”
Also joining the medals podium was Ireland’s 36-year-old Maria McCambridge. The 2004 Olympic 5,000m representative registered 34:39 for third place ahead of Kendal AC’s Rebecca Robinson.
The 28-year-old 2010 European Championship marathon runner clocked 35:08 on her return from a spell of injury as she juggles the sport with a busy life in medicine.
UK all-comer’s record-holder Micah Kogo ensured Aldershot’s Chris Thompson was reduced to the runner-up position for the second-consecutive year as the Kenyan sped to a fine 28:45 victory, with the European 10,000m silver-medallist eighteen-seconds adrift.
Replacing last years’ winner, Craig Mottram of Australia a fortnight before, the former 10km road world record-holder (with a scintillating 27:01) established a strong pace from the outset with 2:50 and 2:56 splits, as Thompson and fellow Brits Andrew Lemoncello and Stuart Stokes joined him for company.
At the 3km mark, Kogo and Thompson forged clear and enjoyed a 20m advantage before reaching half-way in 14:36.
By the 6km point, Kogo, the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, had broken clear on his own as the 30-year-old Thompson settled in 10m behind, 200m clear of Lemoncello and Stokes.
As Kogo reached 8km in 22:51 after a 2:42 split - the fastest of the race so far - the damage was complete as despite slowing in the final mile, Thompson was unable to catch the African in time for the finish-line.
A delighted Kogo said afterwards:
“I’m really happy especially as I watched Sheffield Wednesday win 3-1 yesterday (over Chesterfield).
“Today was a fantastic moment for me. I thought Chris Thompson would give me a tough challenge so I pushed on and he followed me until around 6km. The weather conditions and course made it a tough run.
“I’m going back to Kenya tomorrow to have a two-week break then do some cross-country and road and I hope to make the Kenyan Olympic team for 2012 – it’s very hard but my focus is to be the fastest.”
Thompson meanwhile, was annoyed to lose out on the top spot again but having not raced through injury since the Aviva London Grand Prix in early August, he was still philosophical about the rest of the winter season:
“I’ve got to win one of these things, geez!” he exclaimed.
“I was second last year, and fifth and sixth the years before so I’m disappointed to miss out on the win again.
“I’ve got a lot of crap in my legs and didn’t feel particularly great but tried to conserve as much energy as I could.”
Coached by John Nuttall and Mark Rowland, the latter whilst basing himself in the United States, Thompson continued:
“He (Kogo) broke away at exactly the same time as (Haile) Gebrselassie did in Manchester (in May) and I don’t have the fitness and oomph to go with it so I held back and tried to finish strongly, hoping he would tire.
“I started to come back at him with 2km to go but he looked at me then pushed again – he was the better runner on the day and I did everything I could with the fitness I had. It was really windy in our faces the whole way.”
He will next compete in the Bupa Great South Run in three weeks’ time before heading back to America to begin the hard graft of winter training with an eye on an Olympic berth in London next summer.
Clocking 29:57 each, Lemoncello and Stokes provided the most nail-biting finish of the morning with each dipping on the line after running the majority of the race together.
Getting the verdict for third place, Fife’s Lemoncello gave himself an early 29th birthday present and improved on fourth position last year to pip Stokes for the second consecutive week.
Placing seventh in the Bupa Great Edinburgh 10km the weekend before, Lemoncello was three seconds quicker here and was content with his run after returning from injury:
“It’s good as last week was my first race – it’s a good fitness test,” he explained.
“I’ve had a hamstring tendon injury since March which got worse just before the marathon in Daegu (which he withdrew from prior to the event).
“I tried to go with Chris but couldn’t match it but it was good to run with Stuart – I tried to put a burst in at 6km and we worked together from there.”
The Scot now turns his attentions to gaining the Olympic marathon qualifying time in the Fukuoka marathon two months from now, but will first use either a 15km road race in Oklahoma or the Bupa Great South Run to prepare.
Sale Harriers’ Stokes, meanwhile, improved from seventh position in 2010 and was four seconds quicker than in Edinburgh. The 34-year-old Commonwealth 3,000m steeplechase fifth-placer heads into the winter with the aim of making his Olympic debut nearing the end of a long athletic career.