Two-time world indoor champion Genzebe Dibaba narrowly missed out on breaking the world best at the Carlsbad 5000, but her winning time of 14:48 was the second-fastest ever recorded for 5km on the roads.
The 24-year-old owns the fastest times in history across four distances indoors, and had been hoping to add another mark to her growing collection. Just like three of her indoor record-breaking performances, she was targeting a time that had been set by Meseret Defar. The two-time Olympic champion ran 14:46 in Carlsbad in 2006.
But a 4:50 opening mile – some seven seconds slower than Defar managed nine years ago – meant that Dibaba left herself with too much to do. She was part of a 10-woman lead group at that point, but she upped the pace and was left with just her Ethiopian compatriots Gelete Burka and Wude Ayalew for company.
Having covered the second mile in 4:42, Dibaba was now just three seconds adrift of Defar’s world best pace. Soon after, Burka and Ayalew dropped behind and Dibaba – just like in many of her record attempts – was out in front.
Racing on a different, and slightly more challenging, route to the one Defar contested in 2006, Dibaba rallied hard in the closing stages but was still a few metres shy of the finish-line as she saw Defar’s world record figures tick by on the clock.
Nevertheless, she was rewarded with a winning time of 14:48, the fastest 5km debut in history in just her second ever race on the roads. She also moved ahead of her older sister on the all-time list; Tirunesh Dibaba, a two-time winner in Carlsbad, had a best of 14:51 from 2005.
Burka, the 2006 world cross-country champion and 2008 world indoor 1500m champion, finished second in 15:13, taking 13 seconds off the PB she set when winning in Carlsbad two years ago.
Ayalew, the 2009 world 10,000m bronze medallist, also set a PB, clocking 15:18 in third place. It was just the second time in the 30-year history of the Carlsbad 5000 that Ethiopians had swept the podium positions in the women’s race.
Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands was fourth in 15:28, finishing ahead of Kenya’s Betsy Saina (15:31) and Canada’s Jessica O’Connell (15:36).
Lawi leads Kenyan one-two
Just hours before the competition got underway, the men’s race was hit with the news that defending champion and four-time winner Dejen Gebremeskel had been forced to withdraw because of illness.
But it meant that the Carlsbad 5000 would welcome a new name to its list of winners.
Lawi Lalang, winner of eight NCAA titles across various surfaces, was joined by fellow Kenyan Wilson Too over the first mile, which was covered in 4:14 with the help of a pace-maker. Three-time world indoor champion Bernard Lagat was about 10 metres adrift in a small chase pack.
Unable to maintain their early pace, Lalang and Too went through two miles in 8:35, but they were still comfortably ahead of their pursuers. Lagat, meanwhile, had pushed on from the rest of the chase pack and was running alone in third place.
In the closing stages, Lalang proved to be the strongest of the two Kenyans, kicking ahead to win in 13:32 and becoming just the third Kenyan man in the most recent 13 editions to win in Carlsbad. Too crossed the line just three seconds in arrears with Lagat finishing third in 13:40.
Sam Chelanga (13:50) and Joseph Kitur (13:53) rounded out the top five. Diego Estrada, winner of the recent US Half Marathon Championships, finished sixth in 13:56.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
1 Lawi Lalang (KEN) 13:32
2 Wilson Too (KEN) 13:35
3 Bernard Lagat (USA) 13:40
4 Sam Chelanga (KEN) 13:50
5 Joseph Kitur (KEN) 13:53
6 Diego Estrada (USA) 13:56
7 Haron Lagat (KEN) 13:59
8 Ben St Lawrence (AUS) 14:11
9 Dan Lowry (USA) 14:13
10 Andy Vernon (GBR) 14:13
1 Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) 14:48
2 Gelete Burka (ETH) 15:13
3 Wude Ayalew (ETH) 15:18
4 Susan Kuijken (NED) 15:28
5 Betsy Saina (KEN) 15:31
6 Jessica O’Connell (CAN) 15:36
7 Miyuki Uehara (JPN) 15:40
8 Sarah Brown (USA) 15:48
9 Morgan Uceny (USA) 15:52
10 Juliet Bottorff (USA) 15:59