Difficult weather conditions tested the 5,000 runners who took part in yesterday's Bupa Great North 10k road race in Gateshead. Despite the rain and wind and a course that included several challenging hills, participants enjoyed a terrific spirit throughout the race and a great stadium finish.
At the business end of the race Louise Damen who recently withdrew from next month's World Championships marathon as she bids to recover full fitness after injury, was first woman crossing the line in 33:53. Behind the reigning English National Cross Country champion, local women Kate Avery and Angela Hibbs clocked 34:54 and 37:56.
Damen, who brilliantly achieved the qualifying times for both next month's World Championships in Daegu and more importantly, the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Virgin London Marathon in April, was ecstatic after that performance. But it came at a cost when incurring a sore hernia which saw her reluctantly withdraw from the British team for Daegu where the Worlds' get underway on 27 August.
The Winchester athlete, in her first race since having surgery, said: "It was fine and I felt no effects from the injury. Today was just a case of blowing away the cobwebs and it was more a strength performance than one of speed."
Damen, who broke clear after just 3km, added: "Now that I'm not going to Daegu I'm thinking of an autumn marathon. I've got two or three in mind and will make up my mind in a couple of weeks."
Damen's fellow British international Scott Overall, a former national 5,000m champion, won his race in an impressive time of 29:48 seconds despite the difficult conditions. Behind him Mark Miles and Ian Hudspith fought a much closer battle, before the former got ahead approaching the finish inside Gatehead International Stadium, to take second place by four seconds in 30:09.
Overall, who broke clear of his two rivals after 8km, said: "I began to put on pressure and started pulling away with Ian the first to fall off the pace followed by Mark. It was a tough course, quite angular and the steep hill with a kilometre remaining was particularly hard and took plenty out of me. I didn't realise it was there. But that made it an even better race to win. That's what I came here for."
The third staging of the Bupa Great North 10km, which switched venue from Sunderland this year, attracted an entry of over 5,000 runners raising thousands of pounds for charity.