Sunday, September 7, 2014

Keitany, Farah and Cramond Make History at Great North Run

by Brett Larner

The Great North Run celebrated three-part history Sunday, with the great Mary Keitany breaking marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe's course record and Mo Farah bringing home the first British men's win in 29 years to set the stage for the millionth finisher in GNR history, the first race in the world to hit that mark.

In beautiful conditions with a comfortable tailwind heavy favorite Keitany soloed the race the entire way on track for Radcliffe's 1:05:40 record, only appearing to falter near the end.  Bearing down in the home straight she looked to hit the line dead on, but when official results were posted it was announced that she had made it by a second with a new record of 1:05:39.  Nearly a kilometer back, the U.K.'s Gemma Steel was shockingly strong, going head-to-head with London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana, Commonwealth Games silver medalist Caroline Kilel and two-time World Championships gold medalist Edna Kiplagat before dropping them all to beat her legal course best by over two minutes for 2nd in 1:08:13.  Gelana took 3rd in 1:08:45 with Kilel, Kiplagat and Polline Wanjiku spread out over the two minutes behind her.

Former Ritsumeikan University captain Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) ran close behind the lead pack through the first half of the race before falling off, taking 7th in 1:11:11.  In her international debut Haruna Takada (Team Yamada Denki) ran much of the way against the U.K.'s Charlotte Purdue and Susan Partridge, finishing 9th not far off her PB in 1:12:20.

The men's race saw a large lead pack led by the field's two fastest men, Mike Kigen and Farah, run through the first mile before splintering.  On the Tyne Bridge the pack split again, with a small group consisting of Brazil's Paulo Paula and Japanese runners Keisuke Tanaka (Team Fujitsu), Takamitsu Hashimoto (Team Komori Corp.) and Sho Matsueda (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) peeling off the back.  Japan's top man Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) was the next to lose contact at 3 km, followed shortly by British Euro medalist Andy Vernon to leave a pack of seven going through 5 km in 14:04, 59:21 pace through the toughest part of the course.

As Kigen, the only sub-60 man in the field, pushed the pace, the pack dwindled one by one, first Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) losing touch, then Tariku Bekele and Ezrah Sang, and finally Olympic and World Championships gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich to leave only Kigen, Farah and Kiprotich's fellow Ugandan Thomas Ayeko in the front.  Early dropoff Vernon continued on a strong and steady pace, tightly running the tangents to quickly overtake Sano and shortly Sang, who later dropped out.

Kigen's relentless frontrunning was too much for Ayeko, who fell back from the lead in the second half and ultimately dropped to 5th.  Farah lost ground more than once, but with his untouchable-except-by-Ethiopians last kick in store he never got far enough out first to be in real danger of losing.  Doing the Mobot just before the line he crossed in 1:00:00 to renew the Great North Run's British legacy.  Closer than Farah may have realized as he showboated, Kigen also clocked 1:00:00 for 2nd.  Kiprotich, only a 1:01:15 runner, hung on for 3rd in 1:01:35 just ahead of Bekele who was clearly suffering after arriving near midnight the night before the race due to a flight delay.

Vernon and Sano moved up through the field in the second half with an almost steady gap between them, Vernon beating his best by two minutes in 1:02:46 for 6th and Sano 15 seconds back in 7th.  From the early chase pack Paula dropped all three Japanese runners and moved up to overtake Kikuchi for 8th.  Kikuchi, likewise run down by the U.K.'s Jonny Hay, was a disappointing 10th in 1:04:18.  Tanaka, Hashimoto and Matsueda all unperformed, finishing down the field in the 65-minute range.  Although slower than hoped, Sano, a former Hakone Ekiden teammate of Yuki Kawauchi, was still faster than his Honda teammates Shota Hattori and Yuta Shitara, who jogged the Prague Grand Prix 10 km together a day earlier in over 30 minutes.

Many of the elites were on-hand for the celebrations around the Great North Run's millionth finisher two hours later.  A countdown clock built the moment up, and when it ticked over the million mark confetti and cheers shot over the mass of amateur runners finishing in over three hours.  A group of around twenty who finished as the 1,000,000 sign lit up were pulled aside, and after consultation of their timing chips Tracy Cramond was plucked from their midst for recognition alongside greats Brendan Foster and Sebastian Coe.  With historic marks on three levels and major success at both the elite and mass races, the 2014 Great North Run both marked one of the biggest days in British distance running history and demonstrated its health for the years to come.

2014 Great North Run
Newcastle-South Shields, U.K., 9/7/14
click here for complete results

1. Mary Keitany (Kenya) - 1:05:39 - CR
2. Gemma Steel (Great Britain) - 1:08:13
3. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 108:45
4. Caroline Kilel (Kenya) - 1:09:10
5. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 1:10:37
6. Polline Wanjiku (Kenya) - 1:10:46
7. Risa Takenaka (Japan/Team Shiseido) - 1:11:11
8. Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain) - 1:11:43
9. Haruna Takada (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 1:12:20
10. Susan Partridge (Great Britain) - 1:12:28

1. Mo Farah (Great Britain) - 1:00:00
2. Mike Kigen (Kenya) - 1:00:00
3. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 1:01:35
4. Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) - 1:01:39
5. Thomas Ayeko (Uganda) - 1:02:13
6. Andy Vernon (Great Britain) - 1:02:46
7. Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Team Honda) - 1:03:01
8. Paulo Paula (Brazil) - 1:03:58
9. Jonny Hay (Great Britain) - 1:04:09
10. Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Team Konica Minolta) - 1:04:18
13. Keisuke Tanaka (Japan/Team Fujitsu) - 1:05:11
14. Takamitsu Hashimoto (Japan/Team Komori Corporation) - 1:05:24
17. Sho Matsueda (Japan/Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 1:05:55

text and photos (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

1 comment:

Anna Novick said...

What a race. I would have loved to have watched it live!