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Gebrselassie Dominates Great North Run

Ethiopian Berhane Adere wins the women’s race.

SOUTH SHIELDS, England — Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie crossed off another item on his bucket list here today, overwhelming the field of the 30th BUPA Great North Run half marathon in his first ever appearance at the event.  The Ethiopian’s finish time of 59:33 was the third-fastest ever on the point-to-point course from Newcastle to South Shields, and he won by a healthy 50 seconds.

“What I wanted, I wanted to run more faster,” said Gebrselassie speaking to reporters after the race.  “But, you know at the beginning of the race I was a bit confused by what Gharib did.”

Gebrselassie was referring to two-time world marathon champion Jaouad Gharib of Morocco, a last-minute replacement for Kenya’s Martin Lel who had come down with a fever.  After a reasonable 4:38 opening mile, Gharib shot ahead and immediately dropped everyone except Gebrselassie, Kenya’s Kiplimo Kimutai (who was second here last year in a personal best 59:44), and American Dathan Ritzenhein.  The second mile clicked off in a swift 4:28, and the race was already on pace for about a 59:30 finish.

But the foursome would stay together only through 5K (14:09), after which Kimutai put in a surge which dropped Ritzenhein and Gharib.  The American, who made his half-marathon debut here in 2006 in 1:01:25, was starting to worry that he had gone out too quickly.

“I went out really hard with the front guys,” Ritzenhein, the 2009 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships bronze medalist, said.  “It was just way to fast, obviously.  I think my ego got the best of me a little bit.”

Only Kimutai and Gebrselassie were left in contention now.  The pair blazed the sixth mile in 4:24, then hit 10K in 28:12.  Then Gebrselassie decided that he wasn’t in the mood to share the road any longer.  He put in a powerful surge of his own, sped through the seventh mile in 4:18, and left Kimutai behind for good.

“The Kenyan guy, he’s good,” said Gebrselassie showing obligatory respect.  “He pushed a little bit and it was really wonderful, but it was OK.”

Mile after mile, Gebrselassie soldiered on alone to the finish, his spirits not dampened by this morning’s heavy rains which left the roadway completely wet.  He hit 15K in 42:08, then ten miles in 45:15, putting him only slightly behind pace to beat Zersenay Tadese’s 2005 course record of 59:05.  But without anyone to push him, his pace softened in the final miles, and he allowed himself to enjoy the cheering crowds which lined the roadway to the finish line along side the North Sea.  He was simply content to join the Great North Run’s illustrious winner’s list.

“This is really nice,” he said like a man who had just finished an excellent meal.  “What is best is to win the race because this is Great North Run.  This is so big and wonderful to be part of history.  I’m good.  You know, this is my preparation for the coming New York Marathon.  I’m doing good.”

Second place went to Kimutai, just as it did last year, but in a slower 1:01:23.  Gharib followed in 1:02-flat, and Ritzenhein, who harbored thoughts of dropping out, pressed on to finish fourth in 1:02:35, despite experiencing significant pain in his lower legs.

“I guess I’m not as fit as I thought I was,” Ritzenhein explained while he stretched his aching calves.  He continued: “By the time I hit eight miles I was completely in the tank, and just kind of struggled to come in.  My calves: I think I wore too minimal a shoe.”

Morocco’s Abderrahime Bouramdane rounded on the top-5, crossing just behind Ritzenhein in 1:02:40.

Adere Comes Out  On Top In Women’s Race

The women’s race was far closer.  A pack of five –Britain’s Mara Yamauchi; Portugal’s Marisa Barros, Sara Moreira and Ana Dulce Felix; and Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere– went out at an honest 5:01 for the first mile, and 5:14 for the second.  The pack stayed together until mile-seven when Yamauchi, who had come into the race with a cold, dropped back.  Moreira, the 5,000-meter bronze medalist at this summer’s European Championships, was the next to drift back leaving Adere, Felix and Barros to fight for the win.  Adere still wasn’t sure if her second Great North Run title would come today (she also won in 2006).

“I don’t know; running the race is difficult,” Adere said.  She continued: “To win or not, you don’t know.”

Adere and Felix –who was third here last year– were able to drop Barros, then Adere put Felix away to get a relatively comfortable win in 1:08:49 to Felix’s 1:09:01, a personal best.  Barros finished eight seconds behind Felix, also getting a personal best, as did fourth place Moreira (1:10:08).  Yamauchi, the home country favorite, placed fifth in 1:10:39.

“I’m very happy,” Adere said simply.  “Big day for me, with a (fast) time.”