Chris Thompson and Gemma Steel overcame the difficult windy weather to be crowned champions on home soil at the Great South Run, a 5 star-certified Running For All race, in and around the English south coast town of Portsmouth on Sunday.
An estimated 20,000 runners took to the start line for one of the biggest races in Britain and one of the most prestigious 10-mile races in the world, with the course taking in famous landmarks such as the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home of HMS Victory, and which finishes with a long flat stretch on the accompanying coastal road.
On a normal day it can be difficult with the winds coming in from the sea but this time it was even trickier after the storms that had hit the country but it was a good day for British athletes who took the top three places in both the men’s and women’s elite races.
Thompson, the 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist, made his move about a mile from home to defend his title in 48.32, beating Matt Sharp by just three seconds with Ben Connor in third just one second further back.
“That was tough, really tough,” said the 36-year-old Thompson, who was also the 2003 European U23 5000m champion.
“At no point did I feel particularly comfortable but that was classic racing. There was no way of getting away from any of those lads. I was trying to press and everyone was too comfortable behind.
“With a mile to go, Ben’s coach shouted at him ‘How much do you want this?’ and at that point I thought ‘I want it, and I went’. I thought I had gone a bit early, and the last 800m hurt.”
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Steel overtook Lily Partridge with the finish line on the horizon to win the women’s race n 55.25.
Partridge was second in 55:37 and Charlotte Purdue was third in 55:43.
Steel, 31, is one of the greatest athletes in the history of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, with nine medals, five of which are gold including being the 2014 individual champion in 2014.
She showed once again her depths of endurance and speed as Partridge forged a sizeable lead by seven miles but Steel then started narrowed the gap with every stride.
“I usually like to take it out at the front but I needed to have the patience to trust in my plan,” reflected Steel.
“It was relaxed at the start and I thought I was out on a training run. It was really enjoyable but it heated up after at halfway.”
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In somewhat easier conditions, almost 12,000 runners participated in the four races associated with the Marathon International Toulouse Métropole, which is also a 5 star-certified Running For All race, including 2598 finishers in the 11th edition of the marathon itself.
Over the classic distance of 42km, Dominic Kanger lead a Kenyan clean sweep of the podium positions in men’s race when winning in 2:11:56 while Ethiopia’s Tesfanesh Merga took the women’s honours in 2:35:31.
Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal has been making a name for herself on the major international athletics scene for over a decade and on Saturday she moved to the top of the European 10km rankings with a brilliant performance in front of her home crowd in Hole.
In a time of 31:25, Grovdal, 27, triumphed at the Hytteplanmila 10km for her sixth consecutive win in what is one of her favourite annual outings while there was a national record in second place for Sweden’s Meraf Bahta who ran 31:44.
A triple European U20 champion as a teenager, and still the holder of the European U20 3000m steeplechase record, Grovdal showed the level of her progression in Amsterdam last year when she won bronze in the 10,000m at the European Athletics Championships.
This summer she made a dramatic return to the steeplechase at the Norwegain championships in August, after a six-year hiatus from the event, and set a Norwegian record of 9:13.35 to move to seventh on the European all-time list.
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“It’s good to get a confirmation that what you are doing is correct. It’s great to run such a good time,” said Groval,
Bahta, the 2014 European 5000m champion, was slightly ahead at the halfway point but Grovdal had so much in the tank that she went past her and won by 19 seconds.
The Norwegian was quick to look ahead to December’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samorin, Slovakia.
“The goal is a medal but I will not be happy with bronze,” said Grovdal, who finished third in Chia, Italy, last December. “That I run Hytteplanmila 40 seconds faster than last year and shows I am in better shape.”