Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka and Kenya’s Erick Kiptanui were the overwhelming victors at Madrid’s 53th San Silvestre Vallecana, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on Sunday (31).
While Burka stormed to a 30:55 victory to miss her own race record by just two seconds, the unheralded Kiptanui produced the race’s third fastest ever time by clocking 27:34.
On the eve of the event, 2015 world 10,000m silver medallist Burka had commented that she didn’t rule out an attack on her own course record a 30:53, set in 2012.
On a pleasant night with the thermometer reaching 9C, the 2008 world indoor 1500m champion duly kicked off at a frantic pace, covering each kilometre within three minutes and passing the 5km point in 14:53, eight seconds quicker than what she managed for the same split in 2012.
By then she had already built a 64-second advantage on second-placed Catarina Ribeiro of Portugal, while Spain’s Azucena Díaz was third (15:59) five seconds ahead of Britain’s Alyson Dixon.
Burka even increased her pace in the subsequent kilometres, recording 20:43 at the seven-kilometre point with Ribeiro some 1:26 adrift, Diaz another four seconds behind but herself five seconds ahead of Dixon.
Although her speed decreased in the closing two kilometres, the 31-year-old Ethiopian remained well on schedule to beat the course record. But she had to momentarily stop running to avoid a collision with a lead motorbike with some 300 metres remaining.
She eventually crossed the line in 30:55 to miss her own course record by two seconds.
Ribeiro took second comfortably in 32:41 and the 39-year-old Dixon managed to overtake Díaz in the closing kilometre to finish third in 32:57 to the Spaniard’s 33:06.
“I already knew the race and everything went according to plan,” said Burka. “I would have liked to set a record but it was not finally possible, what a pity. My preparation is focused on the marathon event, I’ll likely run in Dubai, but I can’t forecast a time.”
Spain’s Daniel Mateo, who had finished a creditable eighth at the European Cross Country Championships in Samorin, was the early leader. The first uphill kilometre was covered in a not particularly quick 2:48 split.
The following kilometres were dominated by Britain’s Chris Thompson, Ireland’s Paul Pollock and the evergreen Spaniard Jesús España. They reached the third kilometre in 8:25 while the Kenyan pair of Kiptanui and Amos Korir plus last year’s champion Nguse Amlosom ran comfortably tucked behind.
Spain’s European 10,000m bronze medallist Toni Abadía tried then to run away from the heading group and he opened a 10-second gap but his leadership was short-lived and he was caught shortly afterwards.
The halfway point was reached in 13:51 and some metres later the Kenyan tandem injected a much brisker to pace to easily break away from the rest of the pack.
Kiptanui and Korir took turns in the lead while Abadía, Amlosom and España fiercely fought for the third place in the podium. It was during the eighth kilometre when the 27-year-old Kiptanui left his young compatriot without any winning chances as he barely slowed down his rhythm on the uphill section of the race.
The Kenyan flew through the closing stages to romp home in 27:34 – a clocking bettered in this race only by Eliud Kipchoge and Zersenay Tadese.
Kirui had to settle for the runner-up spot in 27:48 to improve on his career best by one minute and 43 seconds. Abadía got rid of Amlosom and España to take third in 28:24 while the Eritrean came fourth after a thrilling battle with España, 28:35 and 28:36 their respective times.
Notably, Kiptanui – who was competing outside of Africa for the first time in his burgeoning career – ran the tough second half of the race quicker than the downhill first half (13:51/13:43) which suggests he still has room for improvement over the distance.
“It’s my first time in Spain; I ran conservatively at the beginning and felt very strong in the closing kilometres,” said Kiptanui. “I would like to compete at the Commonwealth Games in the 5000m where I think I can run 13:00 flat. My next event will be another 10km race in the Netherlands.”
“I’m delighted with my performance, as I managed a massive PB,” said world U20 steeplechase champion Kirui after finishing second. “I look forward to competing in the summer season where I would like to dip under the 8:00 barrier in my specialist event.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1 Erick Kiptanui (KEN) 27:34
2 Amos Kirui (KEN) 27:48
3 Toni Abadía (ESP) 28:24
4 Nguse Amlosom (ERI) 28:09
5 Jesús España (ESP) 28:35
6 Javier Guerra (ESP) 28:38
7 Federico Bruno (ARG) 28:56
8 Ayad Lamdassen (ESP) 28:56
9 Chris Thompson (GBR) 28:57
10 Fernando Carro (ESP) 29:16
1 Gelete Burka (ETH) 30:55
2 Catarina Ribeiro (POR) 32:41
3 Alison Dixon (GBR) 32:57
4 Azucena Díaz (ESP) 33:06
5 Teresa Urbina (ESP) 33:17
6 Sonia Samuels (GBR) 33:26
7 Marta Esteban (ESP) 33:39
8 Solange Pereira (ESP) 34:07
9 Marta Pérez (ESP) 34:20
10 Elena García (ESP) 34:27