It took the legendary finishing kick of Paul Tergat to deny Wilberforce Talel a winning return to Manchester today.
Talel returned to the city in which he took Commonwealth Games 10,000m gold last summer and he tried everything in his power to win the inaugural Great Manchester Run over the same distance, but in the end Tergat’s prowess over the final 200 metres won the day.
The separately-run women’s race was also a quality affair as current world half-marathon and indoor 3000m champion Berhane Adere defeated Derartu Tulu and Sonia O’Sullivan in another closely-contested race.
The latest in the ‘Great Run’ road races organised by Brendan Foster’s Nova International company saw former Commonwealth 1500m champion Peter Elliott attracting an array of world class talent for the first staging of the race.
With venues on Tyneside (Great North Run), Portsmouth (Great South Run), Balmoral (Great Caledonian Run) and even Addis Ababa (Great Ethiopian Run), the events provide a mixture of quality and quantity with 10,000 gathering for this road race with a difference – the finish line being indoors at the GMEX Arena.
The Champions’ League trophy was on display as runners passed Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United (former United football stars Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law were among the official race starters), where Juventus and AC Milan clash on Wednesday, but Tergat and co. had little time to admire the silverware.
Besides, Tergat has seen enough of silver at 10km events over the years after finishing behind his great rival Haile Gebrselassie in Olympics and World Championships. This time, in his first outing since his fourth place in the London Marathon, he was determined to win.
He went with the pace throughout the race before kicking away from Talel on the steep climb to the GMEX for a two seconds victory. “You made me work hard today,” he told Talel. “I thought you were strong, now I know you are.”
A large group had been in contention through the first half in 14:37, but over the final 3km Talel began to wind up the pace. Tergat always remained in touch and when he reached the bottom of the final climb with 200m to go he pulled onto Talel’s shoulder and then proved stronger on the hill to quickly open a gap.
He said: “It was great fun. We had some good athletes, a large crowd and very nice weather so it was a great competition.”
Adere, who has already taken the world indoor 3,000m title and the Balmoral Road Races in the UK this year, completed a hat-trick with a hard-earned victory over Olympic 10,000m champion Tulu and former world cross country gold medallist O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan, in her first race of the season following an Achilles injury, pushed the pace from the start as she didn’t yet feel ready to challenge Adere and Tulu in a sprint finish. By 1km (3:13) it was already down to four athletes – O’Sullivan, Adere, Tulu and Yelena Burykina - and they remained together through halfway in 15:54.
Burykina lost touch around 8km and O’Sullivan gradually slipped back during the final kilometre, but the Irish star then worked her way back and a three-way battle got underway going into the climb.
This time O’Sullivan had to let go as Adere quickly kicked ahead of Tulu and in a matter of seconds the final positions were determined.
Adere joked: “At least it was better weather than Balmoral,” having triumphed in heavy rain in Scotland two weeks earlier.
O’Sullivan was encouraged by her return to action and will now run the Dublin Women’s Mini-marathon 10km next week. She said: “I knew I was fit going into the race but it still gives me a lot of confidence to stay with athletes of that calibre until the final 200 metres.
“I have only been back training for six weeks so have not done any speedwork yet, so my plan was just to run even paced. I felt I probably wasn’t yet ready to match Birhane and Derartu in a finishing kick, and I knew they wouldn’t take the pace out but would sit in, so I decided the best thing was to run from the front.
“I am very happy with how it went. I was looking for a good hard run and now I have a benchmark and it will be easier to plan to my training sessions ready for the track season, and specifically the 5,000m in Paris.”
1 Paul Tergat (KEN) 28:48
2 Wilberforce Talel (KEN) 28:50
3 Augustine Rono (KEN) 28:56
1 Birhane Adere (ETH) 31:50
2 Derartu Tulu (ETH) 31:53
3 Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) 32:00