Paula Radcliffe continued her excellent run of form as she recorded the fastest female half-marathon in history, taking four seconds off Susan Chepkemei’s 65:44 set in Lisbon in 2001 to win today’s Great North Run in England.
It was the perfect confidence booster for the European 10,000m champion ahead of the IAAF World Half-marathon Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal in two weeks time.
Radcliffe’s 65:40 will not be ratified as a world best due to the drop in elevation of the Tyneside course but that mattered little to her, knowing the course is tougher than Lisbon. She also took delight in leaving a truly world class field almost two minutes behind.
A slightly downhill opening mile of exactly five minutes saw world 10,000m champion Berhane Adere, Olympic 10,000m Derartu Tulu, Chepkemei and defending champion Sonia O’Sullivan in contention, but the latter eased off and ran her own race following a 5:01 second mile.
Tulu, suffering with a cold, was the next to drop back as Radcliffe continued to keep the pace fast and on a climb approaching four miles the home favourite dropped her two remaining rivals.
With the race now totally under her control, Radcliffe upped the pace and was inside five minute-miling as successive mile splits of 4:50 and 4:44 took her to eight miles in 39:51. She went through 15km and 10 miles in unofficial world bests of 46:41 and 50:01 respectively, but a climb during the next mile ensured she would have to push all the way to break Chepkemei’s time.
A steep descent brought her down to the coast road and through 12 miles in 60:15, but she produced a final 400m of 71 seconds to extend her list of distances at which she has run the fastest time in history. She is now the world’s fastest at 5km, 10km, half-marathon and marathon. And if you take into account split times during races, she is also fastest for 15km, 10miles, 20km, 30km and 20 miles.
Radcliffe smashed her 2000 course record of 67:07 and admitted: “When I saw the clock as I was coming up to the finish I was asking myself ‘Does that say 65 or 66 minutes, because I didn’t realise I was going so fast. I knew I was on schedule for the course record but didn’t know I was on schedule to break Susan’s time.
“I didn’t set off with the intention of breaking the world best, but I was feeling good and really it was just like a very hard training run. I have no concerns about recovering in time for Vilamoura. If someone had been with me during the middle of the race I could probably have run even faster, but in the last mile I was giving it everything I’d got.
“The support all around the course was fantastic, almost as good as you get in the London Marathon, and I am pleased to have rewarded them with a good performance. I was confident of having a good run as my training went really well this week. On Tuesday I did my ‘secret session’ which I do before marathons, and it told me I was in great shape.”
Adere took almost a minute off her personal best in second, having run most of the way with former winner Chepkemei.
The men’s race was a much closer affair, but Hendrick Ramaala recorded the fastest time in the world this year although his celebration down the finishing straight probably cost him a time inside the hour. Jackson Koech, the younger brother of former World junior 800m champion Benson, dictated the pace most of the way once the pair had pulled clear at five miles.
Ramaala, who has run 59:20 for the distance, briefly went in front at 11 miles but Koech soon responded and led until the final 100m when Ramaala sprinted past to win by four seconds. The South African punched the air in celebration as soon as he went clear, but later admitted: “That probably cost me two seconds.”
He added: “I did it because I was so pleased to have got away from Jackson, as he had made it very tough for me. It is very nice for me to win and a confidence booster ahead of the Chicago Marathon.”
Defending champion and reigning World Half Marathon gold medallist Paul Kosgei faded and was caught by Sergiy Lebid who took two seconds off his personal best for third.
The mile races saw Sureyya Ayhan win the battle of the world silver medallists. Home favourite Kelly Holmes was seeking a hat-trick of victories in the event but allowed Turkish star Ayhan to dictate the race with a gun-to-tape victory.
Ayhan, disappointed to only take silver in the 1500 in Paris last month, broke Holmes’ course record as she stole a march on the pack and opened a 30m lead that was just too much to claw back. Holmes, who took 800m silver behind training partner Maria Mutola in Paris, closed in the final 200m but it was not enough.
Commonwealth 1500m champion Mike East also set a course record as he became the first British man to win the mile races.
Bob Frank for the IAAF
1 Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 60:01
2 Jackson Koech (KEN) 60:05
3 Sergiy Lebid (UKR) 61:49
4 Paul Kosgei (KEN) 62:00
5 Julius Kibet (KEN) 62:48
1 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) 65:40
2 Berhane Adere (ETH) 67:32
3 Susan Chepkemei (KEN) 67:51
4 Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) 68:40
5 Derartu Tulu (ETH) 69:12
1 Mike East (GBR) 4:03.8
2 Rui Silva (POR) 4:04.1
3 Andrea Longo (ITA) 4:04.8
1 Sureyya Ayhan (TUR) 4:30.7
2 Kelly Holmes (GBR) 4:32.4
3 Jo Pavey (GBR) 4:34.8
Mile Split Elapsed
1 5:00 5:00
2 5:01 10:01
3 5:04 15:05
4 5:04 20:09
5 5:06 25:15
6 5:02 30:17
7 4:50 35:07
8 4:44 39:51
9 5:18 45:09
10 4:52 50:01
11 5:15 55:16
12 4:59 60:15
13 4:55 65:10