Portsmouth, EnglandSonia O'Sullivan of Ireland rounded off her European road racing season with victory in today’s BUPA Great South Run, but strong winds ruled out an attack on the World 10-mile best of 50:54.
The Irish star broke the world best 12 months ago when running 51:00, only for Lornah Kiplagat to run six seconds faster in the Netherlands two weeks later, so she returned to the race on the south east coast of England with another record attempt at the back of her mind.
Those thoughts were quickly forgotten as high winds made conditions very difficult during the second half, and her target soon became just to win. “I felt like a boat out in the ocean,” she said. “The wind was so strong that at times it was difficult to keep my mile splits under six minutes. There was more than a minute differential between miles with the wind behind you and those with it against you.”
O’Sullivan ran 53:26, winning by exactly a minute from training partner Charlotte Dale, the European junior cross country who was making her debut at the distance. It concluded a busy period for O’Sullivan on the roads, with six races in as many weeks.
Paula Radcliffe’s superb recent form, which included three victories over O’Sullivan, perhaps gave a wrong impression of the shape the Irishwoman is in and after setting the fastest official time at the South of England Road Relays (Benita Johnson, running as a guest, was faster) and then defeating great rival Catherina McKiernan to win last week’s Great Ireland 10km Run 10km 32:24 she arrived in confident mood.
She said: “You don’t like to say you’re going for the world record, but I had run 51 minutes before and it is always in your thoughts whether you can equal that or run faster. You want to try, but the wind just made it impossible to chase fast times. At times it was hard just to run when you were against the wind so I am happy with my performance.”
O’Sullivan had set off positively and went through the opening mile in exactly five minutes before abandoning any thoughts of a record attack. Through halfway in 26:25, she was then into the teeth of the wind for the next three miles but when she finally got the gusts behind her she ran a 4:37 final mile, literally being blown to the finish.
Off to Australia
She will now fly to Australia next Sunday. Although planning to take part in a fun run in Queensland on November 1, her next serious race is unlikely to be until December at the earliest.
After a short rest, she will see how her training goes to decide whether to fly back to Britain for the European Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, before continuing her preparations for next year’s Olympic Games.
UK-based Australian international Natalie Harvey, who finished second last year on her debut at the distance, was third in 55:43 while former world 10,000m champion Liz McColgan proved she is still in good shape as she clocked 56:12 for fourth place.
McColgan, who held the course record of 52:00 until O’Sullivan took a minute off it last year, has officially retired from running but keeps herself fit around her roles as chairperson of Scottish Athletics, owning three gymnasiums and doing occasional TV work.
Her youngest daughter, Eilish, is already one of Scotland’s best young female athletes and running faster than McColgan did at the same age, but the 39-year-old proved she is still in good shape. She ran for charity, raising money for Leukaemia, and next year plans to run three marathons in the space of a week, starting in London.
John Yuda back to form in the men's race
The men’s race saw John Yuda making up for the disappointment of missing out on a medal at last week’s IAAF World Half-marathon Championships.
The Tanzanian broke clear around four miles and with conditions so windy his rivals decided not to take up the chase as he went clear to win in 46:25. Julius Kibet was comfortably clear in second, in 47:21, as defending champion Simon Kasimili had to settle for third 48:16.
Kasimili has fond memories of the race, as his 1999 triumph was his first race outside Kenya, and he won in 47:27 last year, but he had no answer to the power of Yuda today.
Ismael Arusei, who won a 10km last month in Richmond Park, London, made it three Kenyans in the first five as he ran 49:09 for fifth place, behind Britain’s Dave Anderson who continued his good recent form in 48:33.
Race officials believe they can make the event, first held in 1990, as big as its sister event - the BUPA Great North Run half-marathon which attracts 47,000 runners. Although today’s race was modest in comparison, with 12,500 competitors, officials plan to make it bigger and better in years to come.