Looking almost as strong as in his best years Haile Gebrselassie demolished a top class field in the Bupa Great Manchester Run on Sunday.
The great Ethiopian won the 10k race clocking a world leading time of 27:39. After this amazing display of the 39-year-old another Olympic Games appearance look like a realistic prospect now. It was the fifth win in Manchester for Gebrselassie after victories in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Behind him his fellow Ethiopians Tsegaye Kebede and Ayele Abshero took second and third, both timed at 27:56. While Gebrselassie’s performance was quite a surprise this was not the case regarding the women’s winner: Kenya’s Linet Masai dominated the race, winning comfortably in 31:35. Nadia Ejjafini (Italy) clocked a personal best of 31:52 for second while Doris Changeiywo (Kenya) ran 32:04 for third.
The Bupa Great Manchester Run is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race. A record number of 40,000 runners participated in what was one of the world’s biggest races at the distance.
Men’s Race: Gebrselassie rushed through 5k in 13:31
In almost ideal weather conditions with overcast skies, a temperature of 11° Celsius at the start, very little wind and no rain a fast race developed right from the outset. A small gap opened early, when Gebrselassie pushed the pace together with Kebede and Ethiopia’s newcomer Abshero. In contrast to the other two much more experienced runners 21-year-old Abshero was selected for the Olympic Marathon after his world lead performance in Dubai with 2:04:23. When the 3k mark was reached in 8:05 Patrick Makau, the Marathon World record holder (2:03:38), had closed the gap and was among the three Ethiopians.
But those four were not running together for long. Although the pace was quick it was not quick enough for Gebrselassie. The veteran runner in this group moved ahead and away around the 4k mark, then passed the 5k mark in a superfast 13:31. At this point he was already eight seconds ahead of Kebede, Abshero and Makau, who were working together to reduce the gap. But there was no chance for this trio of world-class marathoners.
After seven kilometres Gebrselassie was more than ten seconds ahead. The two-time Olympic 10,000m champion (1996 and 2000) then had a decisive advantage of 15 seconds at 8k (21:58). Behind him Kebede and Abshero were now in a fight for second, which was going right to the finish line with Kebede just ahead. Makau had lost contact after the 7k mark and eventually finished fifth with 28:21 close behind Stephen Kiprotich of Kenya (28:19).
"The race was okay for me. I was surprised that the pace was so fast at the beginning," said Makau, who surprisingly had not been selected for the Olympic Marathon. "Of course I was very disappointed." But Makau will still do Marathon training leading towards the Olympics in case one of the three nominated runners gets injured or there is a change.
While Gebrselassie did not succeed trying to qualify for the Olympic marathon he could still make it to the London games. His performance in Manchester must be regarded as one of his best races in recent years. With his winning time, that exactly matches his Manchester time of 2009, he improved the world leading time by eight seconds. The reigning Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) clocked 27:47 in Dublin last month. Gebrselassie has won 17 of his 19 races at 10k during his career.
And Manchester could have been the start of an amazing turn around regarding the Olympics. When competing in Vienna’s Half Marathon a month ago Gebrselassie said that he will go to London as a spectator and that Henegelo’s 10,000m race on 27 May will be the final one of his career. But now it looks as if the Ethiopian selection race next Sunday could lead to Gebrselassie snatching a place for what would be his fifth Olympic Games.
"I wanted to run fast today and next week my goal is to run sub-27 minutes in Hengelo," he said. He confirmed that the Ethiopian federation has said that first three of the Hengelo race will be nominated for the Olympics. "When I am in the top three I will have to go," he answered when asked if he would run in London if selected. But he also said: "There will be a lot of stars running in the Olympics. It will be difficult to beat them. So I don’t know what would be possible. To get into the top three and win a medal that would be wonderful."
Women’s race: No stopping Masai
It was Britain’s Mara Yamauchi, who set a good pace in the women’s race early on. Testing her speed in the build-up to the Olympic Marathon she was leading a group of nine during the first third of the race. After they had passed the 3k mark in 9:29 Italy’s Nadia Ejjafini took the lead and among those that lost contact were Gemma Steel (Great Britain), Anna Incerti (Italy) and Yamauchi.
Masai, the World 10,000m champion from 2009, had been running comfortably in the group to that point. When she then made her move between the four and five kilometre marks none of the others were able to follow. After passing the 5 k mark in 15:47 she then covered the next kilometre in 3:04. There was no way any of her rivals would be able to catch Masai, who looked very relaxed running alone at front.
Behind her Ejjafini and Doris Changeiywo were battling for second place. Shortly before the eight kilometre mark the Italian moved ahead. While Masai increased her lead so did Ejjafini in her fight for second. The Italian was finally rewarded with a personal best of 31:52. Britain’s Charlotte Purdue put in a fine performance, taking fourth in 32:13.
"Mara Yamauchi went off fast so I was happy to sit in as it was a good pace," said Masai. "I felt good when I went to the front and pushed hard."
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF
Men - 1. H Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) 27 minutes 39 seconds 2. T Kebede (Ethiopia) 27:56 (Personal Best) 3. A Abshero (Ethiopia) (PB) 4. S Kiprotich (Kenya) 28:19 (PB) 5. P Makau (Kenya) 28:21 6. C Castillejo (Spain) 28:35 7. S Lebid (Ukraine) 28:36 8. S Ishikawa (Japan) 28:47 9. J Kelai (Kenya) 29:15 10. N Burton (GBR) 29:31 (PB)
Women - 1. L Masai (Kenya)31:35 2. N Ejjafini (Italy) 31:52 (PB) 3. D Changeiywo (Kenya) 32:04 4. C Purdue (GBR) 32:13 5. A Incerti (Italy) 32:23 6. M Yamauchi 32:28 7. I Jerotich (Kenya) 32:47 8. B Willis (Australia) 33:35 9. G Steel (GBR) 33:42 10. A Kalovics (Hungary) 34:33