Iwona Lewandowska wins the Great Ireland Run (© Sportfile)
Poland’s Iwona Lewandowska shocked everyone, including herself, by winning the SPAR Great Ireland Run 10km in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Sunday (6), coming home with nine seconds to spare over pre-race favourite Sophie Duarte of France in the IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s Japhet Korir eased to a comfortable victory in the men’s race over Britain’s Andy Vernon.
For Lewandowska, today’s race was planned simply as a blowout ahead of next weekend’s Warsaw Marathon – an event held in the Pole’s hometown at which the 29-year-old will look to secure qualification for the European Championships later this summer. As a result, Lewandowska’s pre-race ambitions – pitched in against seasoned internationals like European cross-country champion Duarte and local favourite Fionnuala Britton – were suitably modest.
“I didn’t think I would win,” she said afterwards. “Those girls are very good runners, so I’m surprised. The race was very difficult. The course was very hilly and it was very windy.”
Though conditions weren’t conducive to front-runners, Lewandowska nonetheless found herself at the front less than three kilometres into the race and the Pole quickly opened up a gap on her more favoured contenders, building a 50-metre lead by the halfway point.
Though Duarte and Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar closed the gap to 20 metres by the 8km mark, the Pole found renewed strength over the closing kilometre and surged again to come home a decisive winner in 33:39.
Duarte finished second in 33:48, a second ahead of Aguilar. “I’m happy,” said Duarte. “It was not easy – a very tough course, lots of wind. My goal now is the 10,000m and 5000m for the summer. I hope to do both in Zurich.”
Ireland’s two-time European cross-country champion Britton finished fourth in 33:54, and afterwards said she regretted how conservative she was over the first 5km, allowing the leading trio to build a margin that she was unable to close, despite a spirited effort over the second half.
In the men’s race, a group of nine athletes cruised through the opening four kilometres with all eyes on Kenya’s Japhet Korir, the overwhelming pre-race favourite, who seemed unwilling to commit to an early move in such windy conditions.
Soon after the halfway point, though, Korir made a decisive surge which quickly had the athletes behind him engaging in what ultimately proved a futile effort to keep pace with the 20-year-old Kenyan, who is the reigning world cross-country champion.
Korir took a number of glances behind him over the following two kilometres to see the damage inflicted on his competitors, and soon enough only Britain’s Andy Vernon was following in his slipstream.
By the 6km mark, though, Korir opened a lead of 40 metres over Vernon – a gap he would consolidate over the following kilometres, regularly stealing looks over his shoulder and responding with another injection of pace whenever he saw Vernon closing.
At the finish, which he reached in 29:12, Korir had seven seconds to spare over Vernon. Australia’s Michael Shelley finished third in 29:33.
“I’m happy,” said Korir. “It was a very nice course. There was a lot of wind but it was very nice.” He will now turn his attention to the track, where he hopes to represent Kenya in the 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games.
Runner-up Vernon was pleased with his run, though admitted afterwards his Kenyan conqueror on the day appeared to have a lot more in hand than his seven-second winning margin suggested.
“I don’t know how hard he was working,” said Vernon. “He might have had another 30 seconds in him. I don’t know if he was just doing enough to win. I tried to go with his moves at 5km, but I wasn’t able. Between 8km and 9km he began to drift away.”
Next up for Vernon is a three-week training camp in the USA with his coach Nic Bideau’s group and after that, qualification for the summer’s major events will be his prime agenda.
“After the training camp I’ll travel to Stanford for the 5000m, then back to England for the 10,000m trial for the European Championships. I’d like to run the 10,000m in Zurich and the 5000m at the Commonwealths. It’s all going well at the moment.”
In the men’s road mile, Ireland’s Paul Robinson successfully defended his title with a decisive victory in 4:02 ahead of John Travers (4:04) and Ross Murray (4:06). Robinson surged to the lead with 400m remaining and quickly moved clear, quickly dispatching his rivals with an impressive turn of pace.
“It was a home crowd, so I put pressure on myself to make sure I got the win,” said Robinson. “I found myself near the front with 600m to go, and I knew we had a crack at a sub-four-minute mile so I went for it, but just tied up a bit. That time is pretty decent, though, so I’m looking forward to the track season.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF
1 Japhet Korir (KEN) 29:12
2 Andy Vernon (GBR) 29:19
3 Michael Shelly (AUS) 29:33
4 Abdellatif Meftah (FRA) 29:47
5 Matthew Hynes (GBR) 30:01
1 Iwona Lewandowska (POL) 33:39
2 Sophie Duarte (FRA) 33:48
3 Allessandra Aguilar (ESP) 33:49
4 Fionnuala Britton (IRL) 33:54
5 Helen Clitheroe (GBR) 34:31