A little over 39 hours after obliterating her World Two Miles best by more 11 seconds on the track in Brussels at the IAAF Golden League meeting, Meseret Defar cruised to a comfortable road victory in the 5km Hydro Active Women’s Challenge in Hyde Park London.
The diminutive Ethiopian chose not to attempt to break her own World best of 14:46 set in Carlsbad last year but gave yet another indication of her phenomenal all-round ability by kicking clear of her chief rivals between 2km and 3km to win in 15:08.
Behind Defar, Australia’s Benita Johnson, who had finished a disappointing 17th after tripping and falling heavily in the World Championship 10,000m final in Osaka, held off a resolute late burst from British athlete Jo Pavey to take second place in 15:28. Pavey took the final podium spot a further second adrift.
Defar, 23, who was the third successive Ethiopian to win the race after Derartu Tulu and Berhane Adere triumphed in 2005 and 2006 respectively, was simply satisfied with the victory.
“Friday was a tough race,” Defar explained, “I only went for the win today and not a fast time. I have a race next week in Stuttgart (at the IAAF World Athletics Final where she has not decided whether to run the 3000m, 5000m or both). But I’m not too tired and it was an easy race for me.”
Running in beautiful autumnal sunshine the 15,000 starters enjoyed perfect conditions for the 5km test which snaked around the historic royal park in central London.
Pavey, who finished fourth in the 10,000m at the World Championships in Osaka, running in her distinctive long socks was quickly to the fore along the first kilometre down South Carriage Drive with Johnson also prominent and Defar preferring to shadow the leaders in the early stages.
It was Pavey who led a group of seven in 2:52 through 1km, which also included Johnson, Defar, former US 5000m champion Lauren Fleshman, British duo Liz Yelling and Kate Reed, and Russia’s European 10,000m champion Inga Abitova.
The latter three became detached from the lead group in the second kilometre and Defar moved purposely to the front just before the 2km mark in 6:03.
The graceful Defar, who appears to glide effortlessly over the ground, put the hammer down in the third kilometre and Pavey was the next to crack as she quickly dropped off the pace.
Defar hit 3km in 9:07 – just beyond ‘Speaker’s Corner’ – and had created a clear lead from Johnson with Fleshman and Pavey embroiled in a close battle for third further down the road.
It was not an advantage the leader planned to relinquish. Running along the smart avenues of the park Defar simply put on a demonstration in the final 2km.
She hit the 4km mark in 12:14, before further extending her advantage and crossed the finish line on Serpentine Road in 15:08 to add another win to a remarkable season, which has also included a 5000m gold medal at the World Championships in Osaka and a World 5000m record of 14:16.63 in Oslo.
Pavey rallied in the latter stages but Johnson successfully staved off the challenge to secure second. Fleshman finished fourth in 15:31 with Reed fifth in 15:36.
Johnson was relieved to show some decent form after her Osaka disappointment and was pleased with the outing in preparation for next month’s Chicago Marathon (7 Oct).
“It felt quite tough all the way but I’ve been in heavy training preparing for the Chicago,” added Johnson “The way I sprinted at the end was very encouraging and showed I had good strength.”
Pavey, who finished runner-up last year and who is preparing to compete over the half-marathon distance at the Great North Run in two weeks, was less satisfied.
“I’m not that pleased with the run,” she said. “I felt a bit heavy from the start and I wanted to run a bit faster.”
Another interesting runner competing in Hyde Park was multi-eventer Jessica Ennis. The British athlete, who finished fourth in the Heptathlon at the World Championships in Osaka, jogged around the 5km course in more than 28 minutes
Hydro Active Women’s Challenge races also took place in the cities of Liverpool and Birmingham. Former World marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, a former winner at Hyde Park, won in Liverpool in 17:02 with Poland’s Karolina Jarzynska crossing the line first in Birmingham in 16:34.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
1 M Defar (ETH) 15:08
2 B Johnson (AUS) 15:28
3 J Pavey (GBR) 15:29
4 L Fleshman (USA) 15:31
5 K Reed (GBR) 15:36
6 L Yelling (GBR) 15:41