Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Sule Utura, the 2008 World junior 5000m champion, and Azmeraw Bekele, the national Cross Country champion, were impressive winners of the 2010 Ethiopian Airlines Great Ethiopian Run 10km on Sunday (21) as Africa’s largest 10km marked its 10th anniversary.
Utura confirms resurgence with deserved victory
The headlines ahead of the 10th anniversary of this landmark annual race in Addis Ababa were dominated by the un-retirement of Ethiopian distance running star Haile Gebrselassie, the race director of the Great Ethiopian Run, who announced his return to competitive running just a week after the announcement of his retirement.
Gebrselassie and the-then British ambassador Miles Wickestead got together more than ten years ago to launch what would become the landmark event not just in Ethiopia’s athletics, but also in its social calendar. Nine years on after he raised the roof in Addis Ababa by winning the opening edition, Gebrselassie will have been impressed by what he saw on Sunday as upcoming runners Utura and Bekele continued their impressive domestic season with victories here.
The new course, which was altered to accommodate the picturesque new Gotera overpass in the city, did not deliver the fast times organisers were expecting, but the slightly flat overall gradation of the course made for thrilling finished by the two eventual winners.
In the women’s race, Utura, the winner of the 2010 Confidence Women First 5km in March this year and the 2008 World junior 5000m champion, made light work of beating upcoming runner Abebech Afework after taking control of the race at the 7km point. She crossed the line in 33:35, 11 seconds ahead of Afework with Ahaza Kiros, the second place finisher in the 2005 and 2006 editions of the race, coming home in third in 33:59.
"I wasn't much prepared for this competition, but I won,” Utura said. “Before the race, I heard that both women and men athletes are going to start the race together and feared not to be pushed and fall. But we started the race separately from the Addis Ababa stadium and I am happy with that. [The new course] was easy until past the halfway point, but it is a little bit difficult starting from the Gotera Bridge and it was a bit windy."
Bekele beats Yenew for men’s title
Youngster Azmeraw Bekele came into the race on the back of a domestic record that included victories in the national Cross Country championships in February and a win in the Ethiopian 15km championships in Adama last month.
But running against an equally-young, but ambitious group of athletes, he had to work harder for victory here.
His intent on taking the race from the onset was evident right after the 2.5km point where he made the first of a series of unsuccessful breakaway attempts. Track runners Dema Dana, Berhanu Bekele, and Alamerew Yenew, who himself made a stunning international breakthrough in September by clocking 7:28.82 for the outdoor 3000m, ran in a large group of 11 with Bekele responding to his moves.
The pack passed through the halfway point in a fast 14:03 with hopes of a new course record on a high. But no one tried to take on the pace in the next six kilometres with another youngster Seboka Negussie briefly taking his place at the front. But with the slight incline leading up to the finish taking its toll on the runners, the pack was reduced in the last kilometre and a half.
A. Bekele then led Yenew and B. Bekele as the trio ran shoulder to shoulder in the race for the finish. But A. Bekele made a wise decision in the final 300 metres to make a wide turn towards the finish and raced across the line in 29:25, just one second ahead of Yenew with Berhanu Bekele third a further second behind.
"It was the first time I ran the Great Ethiopian Run,” confirmed the race winner. “I was well prepared to win the race. The competition was not that tough, the only place which challenged me throughout the course was the Gotera Bridge. I began the kick after the bridge and managed to keep it till the finishing line.”
35,000 take part in another record for organisers
Another beautiful day for racing saw 35,000 mass participants take in this annual running extravaganza as the race further cemented its reputation as Africa’s largest 10Km. High profile guests this year included Netherlands’ triple World Half Marathon champion Lornah Kiplagat and Spain’s 1997 and 1999 World Marathon champion Abel Anton.
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Bizuayehu Wagaw) for the IAAF
?1. Azmeraw Bekele 29:25
?2. Yenenew Alamrew 29:26?
?3. Brhanu Bekele 29:27
?4. Tigabu G/Mariam 29:30
?5. Seboka Nigusse 29:33?
?6. Asefa Mengistu 29:40??
?1. Sule Utura 33:35
??2. Abebech Afework 33:46
??3. Ahaza Kiros 33:59
??4. Bizunesh Urgessa 34:01
??5. Makeda Arane 34:10?
?6. Hiwot Ayalew 34:30