Pre-race favourites Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba both turned out performances that have come to define their stellar careers with victory at Sunday’s (22 May) Great Manchester Run. As anticipated, Europe’s largest 10k road race drew in an impressive field with more than 25,000 competitors making their way to the north west.
England manager Roy Hodgson was on hand to start the race before heading to the Etihad Stadium for his team's international friendly against Turkey. The 10k had been primed for a showcase event after the Ethiopian duo confirmed their return to action after injury. Bekele has been suffering from an Achilles injury, while Kiplagat didn’t compete in 2015 after taking the year off to give birth.
Despite hearing news that he wouldn’t be selected for the upcoming Olympic Games, Bekele led from the outset to finish in 28:08, seven seconds ahead of Wilson Kipsang, with David McNeill in third (28:39).
After Sunday’s victory, the Ethiopian is planning to return to Manchester next year and has his sights on matching Gebrselassie's record of five titles: “It's great to be here in Manchester, it's a great place with great people. Everything was fantastic and I'm happy to be here. It was a great race and I'm happy with the win. If I get the chance I'll come back here for sure. I always enjoy it in Manchester. It's a fantastic race.”
Dibaba, competing in her first race since 2014, looked to be heading for second place at the 8k mark as Edna Kiplagat opened up a short lead. Yet the 30-year-old managed an impressive comeback to secure first place in 31:16, with Kiplagat second (31:25) and Diane Nukuri third in 31:49. Britain’s Gemma Steel, also looking to regain fitness after injury and illness, took eighth position in 32:43.
On her performance, Dibaba seemed surprised at posting such a quick time on her return to racing: “I felt a bit nervous [before the race] but I'm happy with my result. I did not expect this time; I just wanted to win. I didn't know what was going to happen so I had no clue about the time.”
As ever, the north west race lived up to its reputation as Europe’s largest 10k road race with a sea of runners making their way from Old Trafford before heading out towards Salford Quays and returning towards the city centre to the finish line on Deansgate. In what was the 14th edition of the event, the 10k now boasts over 300,000 finishers.