Birmingham, UKIt may have been Britain’s national championships but the performance of the day at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium yesterday came from an extraordinary Ethiopian. Meseret Defar defied the pouring rain to clock 29:59.20 for 10,000m, becoming only the fifth woman to break 30 minutes as she smashed Paula Radcliffe’s UK all-comers’ record by nearly 28 seconds.
More importantly for her, the World 5000m champion grasped her last opportunity to secure a spot on Ethiopia’s 10,000m team for the World Championships in Berlin. Therefore Defar’s heart must have sunk when, after two days of warm weather, the skies darkened just minutes before the nine-strong field was called to the start line.
But the 25-year-old running utterly alone for all but the first couple of kilometres, produced one of the finest displays of distance running ever seen on a British track as she recovered from 15:05.56 at half way and 24:13 at 8000m to produce a sub-2:48 last kilometre – enough to dip below the magic 30 minute barrier in front of a smattering of cheering British spectators.
They rose to their feet in appreciation as the drenched Ethiopian crossed the line following a 61.25 last lap and the grimace she’d held for half an hour of hard, lonely running broke into one of the broadest grins ever seen in the west midlands.
“Now I can run both events in Berlin,” she said. “I am so happy today because I ran sub-30 for the first time. I was so disappointed to see the wind and rain but I battled hard.
“I thought it would be difficult when the rain started but the feeling in the stadium was so good and that’s what did it for me. Someday I will come back again. Thank you.”
She lapped every other athlete in the race at least once, including her compatriot Aheza Kiros who was second in 31:21.22 and Kenya’s Lineth Chepkurui, who secured her Berlin place with a personal best of 31:31.92.
For the record, Claire Hallissey won the UK title, finishing more than three minutes behind in 33:10.73.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF
A report covering the other highlights of the UK championships will follow at the end of the final day