Wude Ayalew and Azmeraw Bekele, both past winners of the event, won the men’s and women’s races respectively at the 2014 Great Ethiopian Run 10km in Addis Ababa on Sunday (23).
Ayalew became the first athlete in the race’s 14-year history to win three titles, having triumphed previously in 2008 and 2009. Bekele, who had won here in 2010, returned to win his second title, to make it two wins out of two, having missed the three intervening races.
The winning times for both the men’s and women’s races were among the slowest in the race’s history (30:12 for Bekele and 34:04 for Ayalew) but were as expected given the tough nature of the course, which included three steep climbs over the final four kilometres. The race finished almost on top of a hill at the Jan Meda racecourse as the traditional finishing location of Meskel Square was unavailable.
Ayalew back on top
Former world 10,000m bronze medallist Ayalew hasn’t represented Ethiopia internationally since 2011, but the 27-year-old is beginning to regain her best form just in time for the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The first move in the women’s race came just after 6km when a group of three athletes – including Ayalew, defending champion Netsanet Gudeta and Gebeyanesh Ayele – started to break clear.
One kilometre later, Ayele dropped back, leaving Ayalew to fight it out with Gudeta on the final hill from 8km back up to the finish.
Ayalew, sister of world steeplechase leader Hiwot Ayalew, made a decisive move 1.5km from the finish and maintained her six-second winning advantage from there to the finish.
“I love this race,” said Ayalew of a course she described as one of the toughest she has ever run. “It was no fluke that I won. I’ve been preparing specifically for this race and this tough course for the past two months.”
Second win for Bekele
A large pack stayed together for the opening kilometres of the men’s race, which were run in 2:47, 3:05 and 2:36 (8:28 at 3km). Even at the halfway point, which the leaders reached in 14:13, there were still 23 athletes together.
The group started to break up on the first hill in the seventh kilometre, just past Adwa Dildi. Passing 7km in 20:22, Bekele looked comfortable at the front of the group, running alongside teenager Bonsa Didi.
The Kebena roundabout turn at 8km at the start of the course’s toughest hill was reached in 23:33. Didi made the first move on the steep uphill section leading back towards Jan Meda, then Bekele took over and opened a 15-metre lead on Azmeraw Mengistu and last year’s second-place finisher Adugna Takele.
Approaching 9km, Mengistu came past Takele and momentarily took the lead as he and Bekele entered Jan Meda for the race’s final 600m off-road section. But the 2010 winner showed his experience and superior finishing speed by retaking the lead with just over 400m to run and held on for a narrow two-second victory.
“I entered this race wanting to repeat my victory from four years ago,” said Bekele, who earlier this year set a marathon PB of 2:07:12. “It’s good to be able to say ‘run twice and won twice’. I had wanted to run last year, but I was still struggling with injury, and this now shows that I am back to my best.”
Further back, the first European finisher was Britain’s Mark Jenkins, who crossed the line in 34:15. Olympic triathlon champion Alastair Brownlee also ran strongly and finished in about 40 minutes.
Behind the elite athletes, about 35,000 participants took part in the race which had been started by four of Ethiopia’s famous Olympic champions, Haile Gebrselassie, Derartu Tulu, Kenenisa Bekele and Meseret Defar, together with Kenya’s world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat.
“I like the way everyone is having fun,” said Kiplagat. “Many are walking, some are jogging, but they are all enjoying it. We need something like this in Kenya.”
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Azmeraw Bekele (ETH) 30:12
2 Azmeraw Mengistu (ETH) 30:14
3 Adugna Takele (ETH) 30:18
1 Wude Ayalew (ETH) 34:04
2 Netsanet Gudeta (ETH) 34:10
3 Gebeyanesh Ayele (ETH) 34:18