Manchester, UKThere are no stop signs for Haile Gebrselassie on Manchester’s streets.
As expected the Ethiopian superstar achieved his hat trick by winning Sunday’s (15) Bupa Great Manchester Run, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race. A 28:10 run was enough to secure an easy 10Km victory for Gebrselassie, who has now won the event four times after 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Chris Thompson of Great Britain produced a fine performance in second place with 28:21.
In contrast to the men’s race there was a surprise winner in the women’s. Much to the joy of the thousands of spectators along the loop course Britain’s Helen Clitheroe took the race with a personal best of 31:45.
Wind, cool temperatures of around 12° Celsius and occasional slight rain did not provide conditions conducive to for fast times. With no pacemakers in the race Gebrselassie still started fast. Having entered the starting area as the last of the main contenders he was first right after the gun. Running against a head wind the 38-year-old covered the first kilometre in 2:45 with a big group on his heels. But with none of the others helping to keep the pace quick Gebrselassie did not want to act as a pacemaker for the entire way. Still facing the wind the pace dropped.
Ireland’s Martin Fagan then took the lead after about two kilometres with Gebrselassie and a further ten runners right behind. After the 4Km mark (11:25) the Ethiopian took the lead again and the group stretched, but again there was no support for his pace and he eased once more, allowing runners to catch up.
The midway point was passed in 14:16 and the wind then blew in a more favourable direction soon after. That was the time for Gebrselassie to begin his decisive move, with kilometre splits now again going towards a much faster 2:45. At this stage only Thompson could hold on. Ukraine’s Serhiy Lebid moved up to third with Australian Craig Mottram following in fourth. Behind Mottram, Fagan led a chase group.
“By going with Haile I was sacrificing myself a little. But it was the right thing to do and I held on quite well,” said Thompson, the 10,000m silver medallist from the European Championships in Barcelona 2010.
“I was quite surprised how well he ran, because I did not know him before,” Gebrselassie said.
However at around 8Km Thompson could no longer hold on and a gap opened. “If I had won it a dream would have come true. But it was still a great race for me,” Thompson said. With 28:21 the 30-year-old finished four seconds ahead of Lebid (28:25). Mottram (28:36) and Fagan (28:39) followed in fourth and fifth positions.
“I like this race and its atmosphere. I would have liked to run faster, but wind was really uncomfortable,” said Gebrselassie, who looked to be capable of running at least 40 seconds faster under different circumstances. His main focus now is on preparing for a fast autumn Marathon in order to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012.
“But so far there is no decision as to where I will be running in autumn,” said Gebrselassie, who had indicated earlier that he would prefer to run in Berlin on 25 September. This is the venue where he established his World Marathon record, which still stands at 2:03:59.
At the age of 37 Clitheroe is enjoying the best part of her career. Having taken the 3000m gold medal at the European Indoor Championships in March she has now added victory at Manchester, which was another big surprise. Despite the difficult conditions Clitheroe clocked 31:45, her first sub-32 minute performance. She improved her personal best from 2008 by 30 seconds.
Clitheroe was in the leading group right from the start. After an opening kilometre split of 3:12 they passed the 5Km point in 16:06. There had been two slower kilometres with splits of 3:16 and 3:15 leading up to half way. But after that point the pace was picked up again and Clitheroe was pushing again and again. She finally broke away at 8Km, when she left behind Kenya’ Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Grace Momanyi and Christelle Daunay of France. Daunay was able to overtake Momanyi over the final two kilometres, but there was no way of getting close to Clitheroe who closed with a superb 3:01 final kilometre.
“I am really happy to have run such a time in these conditions,” Clitheroe said. “It is a very special atmosphere in Manchester and the support from the crowd was great. That gave me that little extra push.”
Looking ahead to the summer season Clitheroe added, “This result today shows me that I am heading in the right direction.” Her next race will be the 10,000m European Cup in Oslo on 4 June.
A record number 38,000 runners had entered this 10Km event.