IMPOSSIBLE does not belong in the lexicon of Haile Gebrselassie. Ageless and still frequently peerless, the Ethiopian legend cruised to victory in the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run, displaying an ambition and intent that most half his age can only envy.
His time of 61 minutes and nine seconds was the quickest half-marathon ever witnessed in Scotland. And for the 40-year-old, it was yet another world record, the first of many age-group marks that are surely destined to come his way.
Losing is not a habit he wishes to acquire. “To change is not easy,” he smiled. His would-be challengers can only hope Father Time puts an arm gently around his shoulders at some point soon. From the very start on the streets of central Glasgow, the two-time Olympic champion was racing as much against the clock as against his fellow competitors, pushing the pace to an extent that the lead group was swiftly whittled down, firstly to seven, soon to three, and then to the point where Kenya’s Emmanuel Bett was the sole survivor.
After the defending champion, Joseph Birech, exited early, his compatriot tried manfully to challenge. With less than three miles left, he was left to chase shadows. Gebrselassie, as he has done so often, found his own seventh gear and accelerated clear and there was nothing Bett could do.
“He’s a very tough guy,” the victor said. “I tried and tried to leave him behind but it took a long time to kick away from him. Around 15k, I knew this could be something good. I got there around 43 minutes and I knew then I could get under 61 minutes. I didn’t know how close I could be but I’m happy with that.
In a domestic battle, Englishman Chris Thompson and Andrew Lemoncello duelled for fifth and the former prevailed over the Fifer, who had flown in from Arizona less than 24 hours before. “It was only the crowd that was keeping me going because we had headwind the whole way up to the last 200 metres,” Lemoncello admitted. “I couldn’t really get motoring and it was really hard from start to finish.”
Susan Partridge had no such problems in the women’s race, with the Leeds-based Scot delivering a dominant performance to claim victory in 70:40. Tenth at the world championships in August, the 33-year-old from Oban is profiting from enlarged reserves of self-confidence. Edinburgh’s Freya Ross and Kenya’s Polline Wanjinku were left trailing by half-distance and it became a matter of by how much she could prevail.
“I knew everyone was looking at me,” Partridge confirmed. “After Moscow, expectations were quite high and I just felt: ‘how would it feel to come out here and win in front of a home crowd a year before the Commonwealth Games?’ It was amazing, having that adrenaline to push and attack it. I wasn’t going to let them get away early on. I went to the front sooner than I meant to but the gap opened so I had to go with it.”
Ross was 71 seconds further back in second while Steph Twell, the Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist, was a further two places and two minutes behind. “I didn’t want to go with the pace at the front because I’ve just come back from a post-season break,” she acknowledged. “So I’m really happy with how I ran.”
Earlier, Callum Hawkins and Beth Potter provided further Scottish victories in the 10-kilometre race with both hoping it will be a springboard for a solid winter’s preparations for chasing Commonwealth Games qualifying times on the track in the springtime. Hawkins, whose brother Derek has already been pre-selected for the marathon in Glasgow, seized the initiative early on and surged away to win in 23:39, clear of Shettleston’s exiled Eritrean Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab.
“It was a bit slow through the first 5k,” the Glaswegian said. “But I was feeling strong especially since I’m only doing basic work right now at the start of the winter to get ready to go for the Commonwealth 10k time next year. Hopefully I’ll go over to America in March or April and get a good time there.”
Potter, newly-relocated to Twickenham to work full-time with her coach Mick Woods, had to fend off Hayley Haining with the two Scots separated only over the final few metres. Haining will now race in Frankfurt later this month to look for a marathon time that can strengthen her case for Commonwealth selection while Potter waits for the spring to chase a spot in the 5000m.
“I’ll look for fast races,” she said. “I’m not panicking. I got the European time this year on the last day. But I have a good group in London now and that’ll have me ready.”
Simon Lawson and Sammy Kinghorn won the male and female wheelchair 10k respectively.