Legendary Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie and Tirunesh Dibaba will highlight the Bupa Great Manchester Run – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race – on Sunday (26). While Gebrselassie returns to familiar territory and intends to take a record sixth win in this world-class 10km race, it will be Dibaba’s first appearance in Manchester.
Gebrselassie vs Kipsang
Gebrselassie, who won the event in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, will face Kenya’s Olympic bronze medallist Wilson Kipsang. It will be only the second time that they have competed against each other. Back in 2007 they raced over 15km in Heerenberg, Netherlands, where the Ethiopian won in 42:36 as Kipsang finished third, almost a minute behind in 43:30 in one of his first races outside Africa.
Since then the Kenyan has developed into a world-class Marathon and Half-marathon runner, winning the 2012 London Marathon and running the second-fastest time in history with 2:03:42 at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon. Meanwhile, Gebrselassie – whose former Marathon World record is just 17 seconds slower than Kipsang’s best – is still going strong.
The two runners come to the United Kingdom with very similar Half-marathon results this season. Kipsang won in New York in March with 1:01:02, while Gebrselassie achieved a hat-trick victory in Vienna, clocking 1:01:14. For the two-time Olympic 10,000m champion, there was no other race between Vienna and Manchester. Kipsang ran the London Marathon in April, but was slowed by a painful toenail problem and finished fifth with 2:07:47.
In Manchester he intends to bounce back, but it remains to be seen how well the 31-year-old has recovered from London. His 10km best of 27:42 is already four years old, but was set en route to a 58:59 Half-marathon performance in Ras Al Khaimah.
In 2012 Gebrselassie clocked 27:39 in Manchester, leaving behind a strong field that included Marathon World record-holder Patrick Makau and Ethiopian Marathon stars Tsegaye Kebede and Ayele Abshero. “Why do I keep returning to Manchester?” said Gebresalassie after his fourth consecutive win. “It’s quite simple, really. It’s a great race over a fast and flat course which lends itself to my style of running. It’s also always a highly competitive race.”
Little more than a month after his 40th birthday, Gebrselassie – who has established 20 World records and seven World bests during his unique career – could break a World masters record in Manchester. The M40 10km mark currently stands at 28:51, set by Portugal’s Paulo Catarino in 2003.
“For me a simple day without running is not a good day,” said Gebrselassie last month in Vienna when asked about his future. “Of course I could now say I will just run for fun. But I need a motivation for running. I want to prove what I can achieve. And I want to know how my condition is and what is possible for me. That is the reason why I still train very seriously. I will continue and I want to chase the World records for the age categories of 40, 45 and 50.”
It is quite possible that the battle for victory on Sunday will only be between Gebrselassie and Kipsang. But there are two other Africans capable of challenging the favourites – double Commonwealth champion Moses Kipsiro of Uganda and South African Olympian Stephen Mokoka. Ukraine’s Serhiy Lebid and Spain’s Sergio Sanchez should do well from the European perspective.
Will Dibaba chase records?
There are few runners who could seriously challenge an in-form Tirunesh Dibaba. As none of them will be in Manchester, it looks like a ‘homerun’ for the Ethiopian star, who successfully defended her Olympic 10,000m title in London last summer before making a superb Half-marathon debut at the Great North Run in September, winning with 67:35.
Due to injury, Dibaba – who has a road 10km best of 31:30 – had to cancel her Marathon debut planned for London last month. But now the 27-year-old feels ready for a 10km race – the distance at which she wants to compete on the track at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow this summer.
“The 10km distance is made for her and I am certain she will strongly challenge the course record of 31:07 which her fellow Ethiopian Berhane Adere ran in 2006,” said Peter Riley, elite athletes coordinator for the Bupa Great Manchester Run.
“I think her natural front-running ability could also, if weather conditions are good, see her approach the UK all-comers’ record of 30:38, which Paula Radcliffe roared to in London over a decade ago. It still remains a tough mark but you cannot rule anything out.”
While victory almost seems assured for Dibaba, the race for second place could involve two British athletes – 2011 European indoor 3000m champion Helen Clitheroe, who won the Manchester 10km two years ago, and 2011 European cross-country bronze medallist Gemma Steel. Marathon runners Susan Partridge, Christelle Daunay and Jelena Prokopcuka might have a say as well.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF