There were mixed fortunes for mountain running’s World champions, New Zealander Jonathan Wyatt and Andrea Mayr of Austria in Saturday’s Obudu Ranch Mountain Race which was held in Cross River state, Nigeria (29).
The hills of Obudu Ranch dawned clear of mist which promised a warm day
for the fourth edition of this 11.5km, 800m climb, Mountain Race.
After a cautious first 500m World champion Andrea Mayr took the lead and a pack of eight soon broke away from the rest of the field. Tracking her were Ethiopia’s Mestawat Tufa, the 2008 World XC silver medallist and 2007 All-Africa Games 10,000m champion, and Aselefech Mergia, the silver medallist in the recent World Half Marathon Championships in Rio, Brazil.
Reaching the 3km point, Tufa injected a remarkable burst of speed, shattering the group apart. She rapidly established what appeared to be an unassailable lead. Running beautifully smoothly up to the 8km point she had established a 600m lead.
In the meantime, Mayr, having dropped to the back of the following group was slowly working her way back into second position.
From the 8km point onwards Tufa began to weaken, her style disappeared but even though Mayr was rapidly closing the gap Tufa was still odds-on to win. Tufa put everything into a 400m downhill section but then as the course began to climb again towards the finish it suddenly became apparent that she was in severe difficulties. Her run became almost a walk and she knew that Mayr, with her mountain running experience was powering her way into a position to challenge.
With 400m to go Mayr took the lead. Even then Tufa made a brave attempt to keep in contention but she had lost the race. Just 50m to the finish line with Mayr celebrating a remarkable victory worth US$50,000, Tufa collapsed, unable to finish the course due to severe dehydration, and was taken on a stretcher to the medical room.
Mayr's time was a new course record of 51:14.
Just over a minute later, Kenyan Angelina Mutheu Mutuku, took scond place and 2006 winner Rehima Kedir third. Half marathon silver medallist Mergia had to be satisfied with fourth position which she secured by the narrowest of margins from Kenyan Pauline Wangui and another Ethiopian Ashu Kasim.
The men’s race also saw the course record beaten, this time by the first three finishers.
The winner of the US$50,000 first prize was Ethiopia’s Abebe Dinkesa who set a blistering pace from the start winning in 41:45.
Dinkesa was fourth at the 2005 World Cross Country Championships (long course), fifth at the 2005 World Half Marathon championships, and is one of world’s best track runners with a 10,000m PB of 26:30.74 (2005).
Uganda’s Geoffrey Kusuro (UGA), the 2007 World Junior Mountain Running champion finished 50 seconds behind, and last year’s winner Awash Habtamu Fikadu was close behind in third place.
New Zealand’s World Mountain Running champion, Jonathan Wyatt, struggling in the heat, finished in a disappointing fourteenth position.
Danny Hughes for the IAAF
1 Andrea Mayr (AUT) 51:14
2 Angelina Mutheu Mutuku (KEN) 52:17
3 Rehima Kedir (ETH) 52:51
4 Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 53:02
5 Pauline Wangui (KEN) 53:03
6 Ashu Kasim (ETH) 53:05
1 Abebe Dinkesa (ETH) 41:45
2 Geoffrey Kusuro (UGA) 42:36
3 Awash Fikadu (ETH) 42:42
4 Tilahu Regassa (ETH) 42:47
5 Lishan Yigezu (ETH) 42:48
6 Rolando Ortizcelis (COL) 43:40