With the mist shrouding the summit of Haggis Knowe, Chris Thompson sliced through the chill and the gloom to illuminate the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run yesterday as the 33-year-old provided evidence of his startling powers of recovery.
That the European silver medallist was able to race ten miles just two weeks after his impressive marathon debut was a feat in itself. To attack the undulations of the capital and claim victory at a canter was a reminder of just why he was, for so long, regarded as the equal of his long-time friend and foe Mo Farah before the Londoner accelerated onto another plane.
Heading a field of 5000 participants in Holyrood Park, Thompson conserved his energy by lurking behind his fellow Great Britain international Lee Merrien for the first six miles. However, even the man who may represent the sum total of Guernsey’s athletics team at the Commonwealth Games, was caught off guard by the manner in which his rival pulled away to win in a time of 49 minutes and 36 seconds.
The after-effects of London, where he was the second Briton home, are still lingering, Thompson confessed, but his raw fitness blocked out the pain. “I came here to race,” he said. “I tend to be an athlete who makes life hard for myself. I don’t tend to tuck in; I won’t make sensible decisions. I almost time-trial everything I want to do which is not a good attitude.
“So today, I made myself not go in front of Lee for at least six miles. I thought there was a hill at that point but it was pretty much flat and downhill all the way, which I hadn’t expected. It made me work harder to get the gap, harder than I’d like. And then I ran towards the finish. Past nine [miles], I thought ‘let’s enjoy this now’ because I knew they’d have to run a four-minute mile to catch me.”
Merrien, pre-selected for the marathon in Glasgow, ended 18 seconds adrift, with Eritrean-born Shettleston Harrier Tewolde Mengisteab in third.
Meanwhile, Gemma Steel’s 11-hour decision to make her fitness test a public affair paid dividends as the 28-year-old seized victory in the women’s race.
Holyrood Park has been the Englishwoman’s happiest hunting ground in 2014, her win in January’s international cross-country now matched on the roads as she cruised home in 56 minutes and six seconds. It was one place in front of Scots contender Susan Partridge with Alyson Dixon in third and Freya Ross forced out after five miles through injury.
Steel, who has yet to decide whether to target the Commonwealths, sees promising signs as she looks toward her own marathon bow. “I thought I’d stick with them to the halfway point but I felt good so I decided to go and see if anyone went with me,” she admitted. “Freya was the last one to hang on which was a surprise because I expected Alyson Dixon to be a threat. But I was relaxed and composed.”
It was a useful outing too for Partridge as she fine-tunes her plans for the marathon in Glasgow. “It was unfortunate that I allowed Gemma and Freya to get away and build a gap,” she said after her late rally fell short.
Former world champion Sonia O’Sullivan finished in 66:04 after opting to start with the fun-runners.