Melbourne, AustraliaJosphat Menjo won the 50th men’s Zatopek 10,000 metres on Thursday (9) with a move Australian legend Ron Clarke would have loved.
Just before half-way, the point of the race at which Clarke reckoned his opponents were at their weakest, Menjo burst out of the leading group of five runners.
After a first half of 13:58.30, 2010’s fastest man over 10,000m reeled out lap after lap at 66-second pace to break away decisively from Ben St Lawrence, Collis Birmingham, Bobby Curtis and Adrian Blincoe.
With lapped runners his only targets, Menjo raced to the line in 27:39.80.
“It was very tough,” Menjo said, referring to the humid conditions.
“It must have affected the pacemaker. When he tried to speed up, he couldn’t. I tried to push him, but he couldn’t respond.”
If it was hard for Menjo, it was harder for his rivals.
“When I tried to move, it was hard for the others to follow,” he said.
Menjo said his time was “great for December,” and said he would love to come back for the 51st race at the new Albert Park complex next year.
“If they tell me early enough, I will prepare and run even faster,” he said.
Behind Menjo, St Lawrence burst away from Curtis and Blincoe with six laps to run to take second place, and the Australian title, in 28:05.25. Curtis was third in 28:08.78, giving the American runner two top three finishes in the past three Zatopek races.
Wellings takes second Zatopek victory, but misses Daegu qualifier
Like Menjo, Eloise Wellings also ran the second half of the women’s 10,000m on her own. For Wellings, who took her second women’s Zatopek win in a row, it was a futile chase for the World championships qualifying standard.
Menjo missed a record, too. His time was the fastest winning performance in the race since Luke Kipkosgei’s race record 27:22.54 in 1998, the third of Kipkosgei’s four wins.
Fittingly, Menjo neither caught Kipkosgei’s time nor the man himself.
Kipkosgei, who came to Australia as a guest for the 50th Zatopek celebrations, was the last athlete not to be lapped by the winner. He crossed the line for his final lap just as Menjo was sprinting to the finish.
Kipkosgei was fifth in 28:47.45. Birmingham, the defending champion, dropped back dramatically in the closing stages of the race to finish seventh in 29:09.26.
The 50th Zatopek was redolent with history, even down to the performances. Menjo ran 27:39.80, almost identical to the time Clarke ran in his fabulous world record at Oslo in 1965. The ratified world record time was the hand-timed 27:39.4, but the electronic time was 27:39.89.
It was a bitter-sweet win for Wellings – a commanding performance, a personal best, her second Zatopek win in a row – but a tantalising eight seconds short of a world championships B standard.
“It’s there, it’s in me,” Wellings said of the qualifying time.
“I could say it’s my first race of the season, I could make excuses, but it’s the best I could do on the night.
“There’s not that many other races (in which to qualify). Maybe I’ll go to America in April.
“I’ll just keep racing over different distances and enjoy it.”
Tamsett, the 2008 winner, looked to be struggling at times as she clung to Wellings through the first half of the race. At one point, Wellings moved aside to let her lead, but she was unable to take over.
“I think she was in a bit of trouble,” said the winner. “We’d talked about sharing the lead and I’m sure she would have done it if she could.”
Tamsett’s 32:32.02 was faster than her winning time of two years ago and within 12 seconds of the personal best she ran behind Wellings and Lisa Weightman 12 months ago.
Jess Trengove finished third in 34:21.14 after running the entire distance on her own.
Trengove finished 24th in the IAAF World Half Marathon championship in Nanning in October and won this year’s Australian women’s Cross Country title.
Brett Robinson produced one of the fastest performances on record in the men’s U20 Robert de Castella 3000m, running 8:04.22.
Only Ryan Gregson, who set the race record of 8:02.56 in 2009, has run faster in the 15-year history of the race.
De Castella, the 1979 Zatopek winner, presented the trophy.
Kaila McKnight ran 4:18.74 to win the women’s 1500m ahead of Bridey Delaney, 4:19.61.
Tamsyn Lewis took a crack at her own national best for 600m.
Lewis just missed that – her 1:27.77 just over a second outside the mark. She was also given a tough race until the last 50 metres by Caitlyn Pincott, who took second in 1:29.22.
Perseverance paid off for Linden Hall, winner of the Lisa Ondieki U20 women’s 3000m.
After several starts in the race, including a third place behind Bridey Delaney in 2008, Hall broke through for a win in 9:43.19. It was her last opportunity; she graduates to senior ranks in 2011.
Hall won a late-race battle with Tessa Craig, the leader for most of the way. Craig finished second in 9:48.14.
Len Johnson for the IAAF