James Rungaru wins the 2014 Bupa Great South Run (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
Report Portsmouth, Great Britain

Rungaru springs a surprise and Oljira triumphs at Great South Run

Kenya’s James Rungaru and Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira produced exciting finishes to take victories over 10 miles on the roads at the Bupa Great South Run, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in Portsmouth, United Kingdom on Sunday (26).

In cool, blustery conditions, the 21-year-old Rungaru, who represented Kenya in the junior race at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, settled into a lead pack that included his compatriots Joel Kimutai, winner of the Bupa Great Birmingham Run last weekend, Emmanuel Bett, who was second at that race and who won on the English south coast last year, and Uganda’s Abraham Kiplimo, the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist.

Among the leaders in the early stages was Australia’s Michael Shelley, the champion over 26.2 miles in Glasgow, yet his challenge faded after the halfway point when a 4:28 mile, the quickest split of the day, saw the group reduced to four.

By the seventh mile Bett had dropped out following a series of surges from Kiplimo and the Ugandan appeared to be developing a small lead over Rungaru, with Kimutai a further 200 metres back in third.

Yet Kiplimo, despite looking composed at the front, hadn’t saved enough for the final two energy-sapping miles into a strong wind and it was Rungaru who galloped across the finish line in 46:31, seven seconds clear of Kiplimo in second place. Kimutai held on for third in 47:21.

The winner was understandably pleased with his efforts.

“I had prepared well and I knew I could make it,” he beamed. “This was my first time running at the Bupa Great South Run and I felt great. For the last two miles, I knew I still had some energy and I just tried to push."

cross country challenge

Rungaru’s attention now turns to realizing his ambition of once again representing his country: “I’m preparing now for cross country, I want to represent Kenya again.”

In the women’s event, home favourite Gemma Steel, who has placed in the top three at every race that she’s contested in 2014, once again worked hard, only to see Oljira storm past her in the final metres.

Ethiopia’s 2013 IAAF World Championships 10000m bronze medallist recorded 52:40, a personal best for the distance, to the Brit’s 52:42, while Kenya’s Doris Changeywo, the runner up at the Bupa Great Birmingham Run, was third, in 54:18.

Following a slow start, Steel had taken the initiative and a series of five-minute miles saw the 25-year-old pass the 10km mark in 32:50, having succeeded in dropping many of her rivals.

The one athlete who wouldn’t yield however, was Oljira, who timed her run perfectly.

“I tried to make it as hard a race as I could,” explained a disappointed Steel. “I got rid of them one by one, but unfortunately for me there was one still there and she hung on to me before passing me at the end. I’m used to being the bridesmaid and never the bride.”

Steel’s reaction contrasted sharply with that of Oljira, who danced up to the top of the podium to receive her prize.

“It was good,” she smiled. “The wind was very strong, but I’m ok. I am very happy with the win.”

With the peak of the road race season coming to a close, the 24-year-old is unsure what the immediate future holds, although as a bronze medalist at the last World Cross Country Championships she is well set to challenge again in 2015.

“I don’t know when I will race again. I will talk to my manager, but I hope to compete at the World Cross Country Championships, but maybe I’ll do another another road race first,” commented Oljira.

Dean Hardman for the IAAF