Zersenay Tadesse crosses the finish for Eritrea's first World title (© Getty Images)
Zersenay Tadesse, 2004 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, secured his and Eritrea's first global title, just 13 seconds adrift of the World record for 20km. In doing so he convincingly won the inaugural men’s title at the IAAF World Road Running Championships this afternoon, on a 5km loop course whose start and finish was in front of the imposing edifice of the neo-classical main building of Debrecen University.
Haile’s record just too hot
Not much more than an hour after the women’s 20km had been closed out in a World record it looked like we might get our second fastest ever global clocking of the day when a large pack of runners went through 5k in 14:05, equal to the pace required for Haile Gebrselassie’s existing World record. The leader of this group of a dozen or more runners was Robert Kipchumba of Kenya, and he was followed closely by all his compatriots, and such successful packing would eventually secure their country the overall team title.
At 10km our World record hopes still seemed well deserved, as by that point (27:55) the leaders were six seconds up on World record schedule. But the early exotic pace had in that second five kilometre loop been enough to finish off the medal hopes of all but four athletes. By this halfway point, Kipchumba and Tadesse, only had Qatari Mubarak Hassan Shami, last year’s World Half Marathon silver medallist, and Kenyan Wilson Kiprotich Kebenei as vaguely near challengers in their fight for the gold medal.
More precisely described, between 8 and 9km Kipchumba and Tadesse had started to open up a significant margin over the other pair, an advantage which by 12km was up to 15 seconds.
Tadesse pulls away
In the process Tadesse was also trying his best to lose Kipchumba, and steadily more and more daylight appeared between the two leaders as the Eritrean’s move for gold became more obvious. While Kipchumba gamely kept up his pursuit, by 17km he was 21 seconds behind Tadesse and was slowing desperately.
But the early World record bid had also taken its toll on Tadesse’s legs as two kilometres earlier (15km – 41:47) he had dropped two seconds below the speed necessary to improve on Gebrselassie’s figures.
Still, his victory was more than secure, and Eritrea was to win its first ever World title in any major sport.
Tadesse’s finishing time was 56:01, 40 seconds quicker than Kipchumba, who was himself solid in silver medal position by a huge margin. Kebenei didn’t finish for the bronze medal until 57:21 was on the clock.
Behind the Kenyan team gold (2:51:18), Eritrea also had the delight of a silver (2:53:19), while their horn of Africa neighbours Ethiopia finished as bronze medallists.
“The race was fast but I intended to run quick and so it really suited my style,” said Tadesse. “Also, over the last kilometres I was left alone…that is something to enjoy. I enjoy running on my own without anyone around me.”
USA's Ryan Hall who finished in 11th in 57:54 established a new North American record.
Chris Turner for the IAAF