As widely expected, the weekend was short on action due to the New Year on Sunday saving a few races on the road or the country.

Justina Heslop was involved in the most notable fixture as she placed a solid seventh in 16:35.1 in the BO Classic 5km in Bolzano (Italy), also known for a quality multi-event held during the summer, despite an uneven performance that saw her slip well behind into 10th at the end of the second lap but recover considerably to draw in three spots in the late phases.

The race was won by the hottest name in women’s distances nowadays in double world champion Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) who had nevertheless to dig deep to hold off a very strong Afera Godfay (ETH) by a mere 0.4 secs, clocking 16:03.0 and 16:03.4 respectively.

The men’s version turned into a close two-horse Kenyan contest where Edwin Soi edged out Wilson Kiprop by half a second to victory in the end in 28:16.6 to 28:17.1 whereas world cross-country champion Image Merga (ETH) was surprisingly blown away into a distant third in 28:57.9.

Multi European champion on the country Sergiy Lebid trailed home even further behind in seventh in 29:20.2.

Over in Madrid, Spain, marathon Olympic hopeful Susan Partridge obtained a sound confidence boost as she came an excellent third at the San Silvestre Vallecana 10km in what would have been a big personal best of 32:44 but for the over the allowable average downhill slope course, gaining the scalp of returning to action global ‘chase champion Marta Dominguez (ESP, 32:49) in the progress.

The Brit felt inspired to even dare track, at a discreet distance, the fearsome duo of double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and top miler Gelete Burka up to the middle stages before the Ethiopian girls took off into the second half to vanish into the distance.

Burka showed as though she was heading for a sensational victory as she ground out a seemingly crucial edge coming into the home straight but Dibaba mustered a last reserve of strength and response to come back and snatch it at the death, both sharing the same time of 31:30 at the end.

The men’s race turned as much of a thriller as last-minute entry HagosĀ  Gebrehiwot (ETH), just 17, pipped favourite Teklemariam Medhin (ERI) right on the line in an identical time of 27:57 having matched each other stride by stride in the dying stages, over a poorly-designed last lap round a footbal pitch nevertheless.

European cross-country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem (ESP) came a convincing third some way back in 28:10 followed by veteran marathoner Chema Martinez in 28:34 and former European 5000m champion Jesus Espana in 28:41 in a Spanish array.

Former Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Rui Silva (POR) was seventh well behind in 29:12 as he is still struggling to come to terms with longer distances.

Back in Britain, Andy Baddeley opened the new year in a winning tone as he ran a decent solo 14:26 way out in front at the Bushy Park 5km parkrun while Scot Freya Murray, a recent team European cross-country medallist, came top female and second overall in 16:32 at the Glasgow Pollok Park equivalent.

It is going to be intriguing to see whether ‘Badders’ will stick to the 1500m or has made up his mind on a move up to the 5000m and it won’t be long before the answer arrives.

In the most competitive domestic event at the Nos Galan 5km, Boston-based miler Rich Peters, who left a lot of promise with a 3:58.26 mile indoors last term, saw off Welshman Stephen Davies, a 3:38 performer over 1500m in 2007, by a couple of seconds in a PB of 14:40 to the latter’s 14:42, with also US-based Chris Gowell a close third in 14:44 just ahead of Adam Bitchell (14:45).

James Thie, 5th over 1500m at the World Indoors in 2004, was back in eighth position in 14:56 but somewhere between his racing and coaching duties these days.

Further, ‘Lobo’ Susan Waldron was top woman and fifth overall in 35:09 over 10km at the Hereford New Year event but a most extraordinary turn-up a week ago yesterday was Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu‘s venture over what should have been a first ever 5km outing in 20:43 at the Enfield & Haringey Boxing Day event at the Lee Valley, a rough average of 4:08 per km – not bad for her!

Indoors, the most notable showing was that of Ron Roddan-coached Nigel Thomas who started off his season to a brace of PBs of 6.82 and 6.81 secs over 60m at the New Year Spints meet at the Lee Valley, improving from 6.85 secs posted at the BUCS Championships last February. That augurs very well for a time inside 6.7 secs as the season progresses.

Outdoors, yes, in the hammer ring, U20 Callum Brown flung the 6kg junior implement to a second best ever 66.39m at the Winter Wonderwhirl in Ipswich, ten days after setting a massive PB of 68.05m in Norwich. The 17-year-old thrower of City of Norwich looks bound to reach well over 70m in summer and a new name to look out for.

Amir Williamson was top senior at 61.14m at the same meet.