There have been mixed feelings on the road for the British girls as Gemma Steel and Charlotte Purdue battled it out for the top honours in the streets of Dublin to underline their promise whereas Paula Radcliffe suffered a serious blow to her hopes of eventually claiming that elusive Olympic medal in London as she faltered well off her target in Vienna.

On the track, Martyn Rooney opened his account to winning ways in style in Los Angeles and Abi Oyepitan evoked robust glimpses of the form that paved the way to the 200m final in Athens, with young Sophie Papps illustrating a glittering future in the women’s sprints at the Lee Valley.

OMV Half Marathon, Vienna

The much hyped “Emperor vs the Queen” virtual handicap race against great Haile Gebrselassie never really waltzed round the streets of the city of Johan Strauss as Radcliffe faded away over the back end of the half marathon course despite an encouraging start.

On a specially arranged format, the Briton was afforded a headstart of 7:52 on the differential between the lifetime bests of the two legends of distance running and showed purpose in the early stages to move past the opening 5k on schedule in 16:13.

But it turned all uphill from there on as the effects of a recent bout of bronchitis and pleurisy caught up with her and her strength started to waver in a test of mentality rather than an intended gauge of form and sharpener that reared up.

In due consideration, that was a race the world marathon record holder should have never run but she may have fallen for that false feeling of full recovery so many times when strength hasn’t actually settled back in yet, meddled with the anxiety of slipping behind her Olympic agenda.

By stark contrast, the ’emperor’ showed rejuvenated again, as if holding a charm of making, so much so that he soon released his rabbits of their duties to follow his own preferred tempo and breezed past Radcliffe slightly after the 15km mark, extending a shout of encouragement to his credit, on the way to wrapping up both contests in a time of 60.52.

Topping the women in a final time of 72:03, the slowest she has ever returned over the distance, will hardly offer any consolation for the Brit who, as Steve Cram wisely points out, will have to pick her way and races up to London very carefully henceforth, without any margin for mistakes.

SPAR Great Ireland Run, Dublin

The spell of the Olympics in London looks to work wonders on almost every department of home athletics and the spectacle of season revelation Gemma Steel and returning-to-action Charlotte Purdue pulling away from the field into a commanding British one-two in the women’s 10km race stirred life into hope of a revival over a distance that has been deep in the shades in recent years on the track.

Steel worked up a decisive four second gap on her domestic rival over the final kilometre of the course to collect the spoils in a huge best of  32:06, moving ninth in the UK all-time lists, and built on a sound run on all surfaces since autumn but Purdue won’t feel hard done by either with runner-up in a big new lifetime mark of 32:10 to slot into eleventh fastest ever herself.

Even more so when the young AFD runner came into the race still feeling a swift 15:29 long leg at the National Women’s 6-stager at Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, the previous day in her legs to show that form is falling in nicely down the way. Both times, without a doubt, indicate that the two Brits could pull the A standard of 31:45.00 on the track in the following several weeks and a place on the British team to London, an exciting prospect.

On the other hand, Helen Clitheroe endured a bad day at the office on her comeback from a training spell in Portugal as she looked rather uncomfortable midway through and trailed a long way behind the main action in fourth in 33:02 (SB), with Frenchwoman Christelle Daunay splitting the Brits in third in 32:27.

The men’s race could not bear the term contest by any means as great Kenenisa Bekele stormed to the front with the gun to force a searing pace, confident and flowing round the route, that saw him walk away with victory in a swift 27:49, a huge course record, as none survived on his tail even by the halfway mark.

A gap of almost a minute up on his nearest rival, as well as a few fleeting smiles looking round on the way, told the tale of a man back in serious business and feeling pleased with his form and fitness even though there was hardly a field to really test him over the distance. But time and races will tell whether he is back to his best once he swings onto the track next month with his showdown against Mo Farah over 5000m in Eugene looming large on the horizon.

Spaniard Ayam Lamdassam hung on to runner-up in 28:48 a mere second ahead of Italian Daniele Meucci, fourth and third behind Farah over 10000m in Barcelona, as they trailed a long way behind while Nick McCormick enjoyed another encouraging run to end up fifth in 29:04 and will take plenty of heart from a scalp like former European 5000m champion Jesus Espana.

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