After disappointment in last month's Berlin marathon, Haile Gebreselassie returned to winning ways with a comfortable victory in yesterday's (Sunday, October 23) Bupa Great Birmingham Run. The Ethiopian runner headed a 15,000 strong running field with an impressive time of 61:29, while British runner Gemma Steel enhanced her burgeoning reputation with victory in the women's race.
With an early pace set by Qatari Essa Rashed, Gebreselassie broke free between 7 and 8 miles, recording consecutive splits of 4:25 and 4:23. Rashed finished in second position with a personal best of 62:10, while Morocco's Abderrahime Bouramdane took third position (63:57).
Even though the Ethiopian runner maintained a constant pace throughout, he later admitted the final stages were a struggle, commenting: "It was a fantastic race for me except for the wind and it was really hard between 11 and 12 miles. It reminded me of the sort where I do my training back home in Addis Ababa. I was almost crying going up that hill."
In the women's event, meanwhile, Gemma Steel recorded a personal best of 1:12:21 as she continued on what is becoming a highly successful year. Steel broke from the crowd at the 10 mile mark and finished more than a minute ahead of Louise Damen (1:13:51). Lucy MacAlister completed the top trio (1:15:30).
Speaking after the race, Steel admitted to sharing Gebreselassie's pain when tackling the testing incline towards the end, "I train on hills and love them but after 11 miles that one hurt me. I've done myself justice today having ran a personal best. The sky's the limit at the moment and everything's going in the right direction."
In addition to the high turnout of competitors, it is believed some 60,000 people lined the streets along the 13.1-mile route. The restructured event, formerly called the Birmingham Half Marathon, attracted a host of notable participants including former England footballer Geoff Thomas and marathon runner Blind Dave Heeley.