Convincing victories for Kebede, Ayalew at Great Ethiopian Run
25 November 2007 – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Ethiopian runners Tsegaye Kebede and Wude Ayalew were impressive winners of the men’s and women’s race at the 2007 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run, the seventh edition of the annual 10Km international race, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Kebede, winner of the 2007 Abebe Bikila International Marathon, broke off in the last kilometre to take a deserved victory, while Ayalew oozed class as she turned on the accelerator in the last two kilometres before powering to an impressive win.
More than 30,000 runners took the streets of Addis Ababa once again for this annual road race extravaganza which continues to grow in popularity.
Ayalew on cruise control – women’s race
A strong women’s field was expected to be the highlight of this year’s race and the contest lived up to its billing with a fantastic tussle among the country’s up-and-coming young runners who now look assured of continuing the success trail set by more illustrious compatriots like Derartu Tulu, Gete Wami, Berhane Adere, Tirunesh Dibaba, and Meseret Defar.
Such was the depth of talent on show and their appetite for the contest that the country’s future in distance running looks very bright once again.
After the usual frantic start, a leading pack of 30 athletes took up a run for their lives to assume strategic position at the head of the pack. The scramble that ensued saw runners like Abebu Gelan, third in the junior race at the 2007 Ethiopian World cross trials, floored on the asphalt and three other runners tripping over her in order to escape the potential mayhem.
By the end of the third kilometre, the runners were so bunched up and looked afraid of each other’s ability to save their best for the final moments of the race. However, eventual race winner Wude Ayalew had none of it. The 20-year old, fifth in the 2006 World Cross Country long race and fifth over the 5000m at the 2006 World Junior championships, tried to disperse a nervous batch with some immaculate strides.
Her efforts helped reduce the pack down to 20 runners at the 4km point. By then, Geneze Dibaba, younger sister of two-time World 10,000m champion Tirunesh, tried to take up some of the front running responsibilities without much success.
Ahaza Kiros, runner up in this race in 2005 and 10th over the 10,000m in Osaka 2007, was the first casualty to drop off the lead group at this point.
Pre-race favourite Derebe Alemu, national four mile record holder and recent winner of the Vodafone New Delhi Half Marathon, was next to assume a position at the front of the pack and her strong legs further helped dwindle the pack to twelve runners by the half way point.
As the runners approached the penultimate uphill part of the course at the 7km point, Ayalew put on a punishing pace that simply opened the race apart. Atsede Habtamu, fifth in the World Road Running Championships in Udine, Italy; two-time winner Genet Getaneh; and Alemu were among the runners to be dropped off as only Asselefech Mergia, winner of the 2007 Confidence Women First 5km in April, and Koreni Jelila, 19th in the 2007 World cross in Mombassa, could live with Ayalew’s pace.
The trio continued exchanging leads for the next two kilometres before Jelila was dropped off at the 8km mark. The two-way horse race that ensued between Ayalew and Mergia was reduced to one shortly after the 9km mark when Ayalew pulled away from her younger understudy.
With 800m to go, Ayalew increased her lead to 20m and powered with consummate ease to take victory in 33:50.86 with Mergia (34:10.71) and Koreni Jelila (34:14.16) easily holding off the chasing pack for second and third respectively.
“Cross country and road running are easy for me and I enjoy them,” said Ayalew after her victory. “I was sure I would finish in the top three before the race. The race was great, but the weather was difficult. I had difficulty breathing because of the altitude.”
Virtually unknown barely eighteen months ago, Ayalew caused a major surprise in the 2006 World Cross Country championships in Fukuoka, Japan when she finished fifth in the long race. She then ran 31:30 (fourth fastest in the all-time Ethiopian lists) for the 10km in Freibourg, Germany, weeks later before finishing fifth over the 5000m at the 2006 World junior championships in Beijing, China.
While Ayalew is no stranger to international competition, the 20-year old, who is in the same running club as double World Cross Country bronze medallist Meselech Melkamu, believes that winning the Great Ethiopian Run is a nice way to start her preparations for 2008 which she hopes will lead to a first ever appearance at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I was only selected to the national team last year,” she says, “Before that, I was running for my club and we had no access to a running track. I used to do all my training in the forests. I feel that this victory will give me the confidence to improve on the track as well as I run on the roads. I hope to represent Ethiopia over the 10,000m at the Beijing Olympics.”
MEN - Kebede makes his mark
When Deriba Merga won this race last year, he completed a remarkable domestic treble and launched himself onto the international path. Since then, the 22-year-old has won half marathon gold at the 9th All-African Games in Algiers, Algeria and ran a personal best (59:16) to finish fourth in the 2nd IAAF World Road Running Championships in Udine.
There are remarkable similarities between Merga and this year’s race winner Tsegaye Kebede who confirmed his rising star status with victory here against very tough and experienced opposition.
Like Merga, he does not hail from the country’s traditional talent discovery locations having been born and raised in Sendafa, just 42kms outside Addis Ababa, and future site of what is hoped to be Ethiopia’s only athletic centre. On this evidence, the small thriving city may have started producing talent even before the first brick is laid! And like his now more famous compatriot, he is part of the ambitious Global NIKE project set up by Global Sports Communication’s Getaneh Tessema to unearth top Marathon talent.
The 20-year old may only be starting his second year as a full-time runner, but he showed the finesse of an experienced runner in knowing when to make his move.
The race got off to a fast start, but unlike the women’s race where there was little waiting and little action at the beginning, a leading group of six, including Kenyan Sammy Karanja and late entrant Eshetu Wondimu, second in the Seven Hills 15km in Nijmegen last Sunday, moved clear of the rest at the head of the pack.
While the runners pounding on the streets under the bright Addis Ababa sunshine, Wondimu became the first casualty of the race when he dropped out just short of the 4km marker, while Kebede and Ayele Abshiro powered forward into a commanding lead leaving others to fight it out for minor places.
The front pair exchanged the lead between themselves throughout the race when Abshiro tried to open up a gap at the 7.5km point. Kebede quickly closed down the increasing gap, but when he responded with his own thrust at the 8.5km mark, Abshiro had little left to fight back.
While Abshiro struggled and was eventually caught and passed by other runners, Kebede powered forward taking victory in 29:06.50 with Tola Bane and Feyisa Lelisa edging Abshiro out of the top three positions.
“I did not expect to win this race and I am very happy,” said Kebede. “My event is usually the marathon and I thought I would find the 10km difficult.”
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
1. Tsegaye Kebede (Unattached) 29:06.50
2. Tola Bane (Muger Cement) 29:13.65
3. Feysa Lelisa (Defence) 29:20.25
4. Ayele Abshiro (Unattached) 29:21.82
5. Dereje Tadesse (Defence) 29:24.23
6. Dereje Debele (Defence) 29:29.48
7. Zenbaba Yegezu (St. George) 29:32.00
8. Dino Sefer (Omedla) 29:36.20
9. Tilahun Regassa (Prisons Police) 29:37.00
10. Tesfaye Girma (Omedla) 29:47.80
1. Wude Ayalew (EEPCO) 33:50.86
2. Asselefech Merga (Omedla) 34:10.71
3. Koreni Jelila (Defence) 34:14.16
4. Genet Getaneh (Prisons Police) 34:24.05
5. Derebe Alemu (Prisons Police) 34:24.44
6. Derebe Ayele (Ethiopian Tegen) 34:36.61
7. Frehiwot Goshu (Prisons Police) 34:41.19
8. Tsega Gelaw (Defence) 34:42.41
9. Atsede Habtamu (Omedla) 34:43.25
10. Asselefech Assefa (Muger Cement) 34:58.57