Commanding Central Park victory for Linet Masai (New York Road Runners) © Copyright
The 20-year-old lost by one second to her team-mate Vivian Cheruiyot last year, but left nothing to chance this time as she strode gracefully away from Sylvia Kibet in the second half of the race to beat her compatriot comfortably in 15:06.
Kibet was second some 20 metres behind in 15:10 while Stephanie Twell continued her great form to finish third for Britain in 15:32 holding off the challenge of Ethiopia’s Worknesh Kidane and USA’s Lauren Fleshman who were fourth and fifth respectively.
“That was a very good race for me,” said Masai. “I improved my personal best for 5k on the road and it was great to come back this year and win after losing so narrowly last time.”
Kibet was also happy with her race despite being cast adrift by the long-legged Masai in the final two kilometres.
“I’m satisfied with my performance because I’ve just arrived from Prague and road racing isn’t easy for me,” said the 26-year-old, who claimed the world silver medal over this distance on the track in Berlin last summer.
“I wanted to be in the first two and to stay with Linet as long as possible. She is a great athlete so I knew it was going to be hard.”
A year ago many had predicted that Masai and Cheruiyot would push each other towards Paula Radcliffe’s course record of 14:51, but there was little chance of that this year as the leading runners set off at a wary pace in warm overcast conditions.
Fleshman, Twell and Britain’s Jo Pavey were the early leaders on South Carriage Drive with Masai and Russia’s Inga Abitova on their heels.
Masai bided her time until they clipped through 1k in 3:12 but then the Kenyan strode swiftly to the front, immediately injecting a new urgency into the race which only Kibet and Twell could match. By the time they passed 2k in 6:11 (a 2:59 split) it was already a three-way race with Kidane leading the chasers some 25 metres adrift.
The three leaders ran side-by-side up Broad Walk adjacent to London’s famous Park Lane. But Masai always looked most comfortable, her long legs eating up the ground, and by the time they reached Speaker’s Corner, Twell had lost five metres.
The two Kenyans passed 3k in 9:10 before Masai made her second move of the race, kicking away from Kibet along North Carriage Drive. She rapidly opened a lead of 10m which grew to 25m as she swung round the corner near Lancaster Gate, into West Carriage Drive and under the 4k mark in 12:07 – the fastest kilometre of the day at 2:57.
She powered on up the last climb and round the final loop of the narrow course to the finish.
“It was a slow start today but after one kilometre I decided to take the lead,” said Masai. “I planned to push from the front because I was worried about my finishing kick. I didn’t want the same thing to happen as last year.”
Kibet chased her hard, closing the gap slightly in the final stages while Twell worked hard to resist the challenge of Kidane and Fleshman and claim her place on the podium.
“I am super happy to run have run so well,” said Twell, who has lowered her 1500m and 5000m track PBs this summer.
“I tried to cover Linet’s move and maintained it for a long time. But this is a deceptively challenging course and I was left on my own. To run 15:32 is great for me and third was just what I aimed for.”
Pavey was a little disappointed to finish seventh in 15:53 in her first race after suffering a toe injury which kept her out of the European Championships.
“I would have liked to run faster,” she said. “The Kenyans are fantastic athletes but I wanted to be a bit more competitive. It’s always difficult in your first race back from injury but I’m just glad to be racing again."
Former champion Sonia O’Sullivan, who won the event in 2002 and 2004, was happy to be just another competitor today, running for pride, fun and charity alongside 15,000 others. She finished a creditable 23rd in 17:46.
“These races are great fun,” said the former world track champion. “I always like to be part of this event. I put in the same effort as always but it’s not the same speed these days. It’s just nice to have a challenge every now and then, and running with all these women is so much better than training on your own.”
O’Sullivan vowed to be back next year, as did Masai who promised, “I will be back to win again.”
Matthew Brown for the IAAF
1. Linet Masai, KEN 15:06
2. Sylvia Kibet, KEN 15:10
3. Stephanie Twell, GBR 15:32
4. Werknesh Kidane, ETH 15:35
5. Lauren Fleshman, USA 15:36
6. Anna Dulce Felix, POR 15:48
7. Jo Pavey, GBR 15:53
8. Inga Abitova, RUS 16:05
9. Justina Heslop, GBR 16:06
10. Lidia Chojecka, POL 16:25