Genzebe Dibaba Just Misses World Record at Carlsbad 5000

Bernard Lagat sets the masters world record at the 5K road distance.

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Bernard Lagat sets the masters world record at the 5K road distance.

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Ethiopian track star Genzebe Dibaba ran her first 5K road race ever Sunday at the Carlsbad 5000, and she had one goal in mind —a world record.

But a slow first mile was too much to overcome in her race against the clock. Dibaba won decisively, but her time of 14:48 was two seconds shy of Meseret Defar’s 5K world record set in 2006.

Dibaba ran the first mile in about 4:50, taking charge of the race but putting her behind the world mark. She stormed back in the final two miles, and flew down Carlsbad Village Drive for a downhill finish with the record in sight.

It was close, but not quite fast enough.

The 24-year-old Dibaba said afterward it would likely be her only road race this year, as she plans to return to the track this summer. She has set four world records in track over the past 14 months.

Dibaba won the race by 25 seconds in what turned out to be an Ethiopian sweep on the podium. Gelete Burka finished second in 15:13 and Wude Yimer placed third in 15:18.

The top Americans included Sarah Brown of Solana Beach, Calif. (15:48, 8th), Morgan Uceny of Brighton, Mass. (15:52, 9th), Juliet Bottorff of Brighton, Mass. (15:59, 10th) and Deena Kastor of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (16:05, 12th).

American favorite Brenda Martinez stuck with Dibaba at first before falling back and eventually dropping out. She tweeted after the race that she was getting over an illness and had trouble breathing.

Lagat Sets Masters World Mark

A jolt from the raucous crowd was exactly what Bernard Lagat needed.

With Kenyans Lawi Lalang and Wilson Too slowly pulling away, the 5K’s spectator-friendly course ignited Lagat, who fed off the energy of the crowd to surge back into contention.

He never caught the lead pair and eventually finished third in 13:40, just eight seconds off of Lalang’s victorious time. But it was the fastest 5K road time ever run by a Masters runner.

“That is great,” the 40-year-old Lagat said. “I wanted the USA record, but that’s not too bad either.”

Marc Davis set the American record of 13:24 back in 1996. Lagat ran under Davis’ mark last year, clocking 13:19, but the course was later found to be 13.5 feet short.

The elite course was re-drawn this year to make it more spectator-friendly. It involved four 180-degree turns to keep the runners contained in a smaller area so fans could see more of them.

Those turns could be considered a deterrent against fast times, but Lagat said he felt he kept his speed up over the turns. The warm temperatures and slight breeze slowed him down slightly—but the rowdy crowd canceled it out.

“They really helped me,” Lagat said.

Other Americans included Diego Estrada of Salinas, Calif., (13:56, 6th); Dan Lowry of Allston, Mass., (14:13, 9th); Ben Bruce of Flagstaff, Ariz., (14:15, 12th) and Ethan Shaw of Allston, Mass. (14:29, 15th).