As ever, theCity Games and the Great Manchester Run proved to be brilliant events with the perfect timing to bridge between the hectic road running calendar and the early outdoor season excitement.
While there were zillions of highlights from this weekend’s action here are my five thoughts to take away from the action:
Dina Asher-Smith the star of 2015?
The equivalent to a college freshman, Asher-Smith, is already performing well beyond her years. If she were currently competing in the NCAA, then her 11.07 split from the 2*100m relay this weekend would place her as the 3rd fastest collegic athlete in 2015.
As it is, the sprinter is of course a British university student and so she doesn’t have to worry about all the issues like being an amateur, therefore we should hopefully see her give her all in the Diamond League sometime soon.
We’ve already seen her excel this year at the European indoor championships and now here in Manchester the teenager showed her class to triumph over triple European champ Dafne Schippers in the 150m before taking relay victory in the 2X100m.
The world junior champion certainly seems set to have a good outdoor season. Should she be given her first chance to represent Great Britain in an individual event at the world championships in Beijing, then the 2013 relay bronze medallist has a great chance of making the final.
Not only does she possess one of the best and most explosive starts in the game but she holds her form pretty well too!
2. Heptathlon heats up:
With Katarina Johnson-Thompson making her outdoor debut and Jessica Ennis-Hill returning to the sport for the first time since giving birth to her baby son Reggie, we were given our first snapshot of the spicy rivalry that should heat up as we head towards Rio 2016.
Although they did not race each other on this occasion, their performances issued rather different statements.
While KJT battled well over the hurdles almost beating specialist Meghan Beesley in the 200mh, to show just how much she has improved over the discipline, something that is sure to make her even more hard to beat in Gotzis, Ennis-Hill was unsurprisingly far from her personal best in the 100mh.
Not that her time of 13.14 was anything to be scoffed at, especially given the weather conditions that occurred before and after the race. The way she stayed in contention with Tiffany Offili-Porter and Lucy Hatton until the second-to-last hurdle was also great to see.
She must now consider whether she wants to continue with her plans to compete in Gotzis too, especially given the level of media attention her presence at the meet bring.
3.Greg’s on top
His winning leap of 8.01m may have been way-off what he can produce, but Rutherford will no doubt still be delighted with the win.
Especially given the way that the less than ideal weather conditions affected the field events.
The 28-year-old wants to hold all the major outdoor titles by the end of 2015, so after his brilliant indoor performance at the Birmingham grand prix earlier this year, his victory in Manchester is just the start he needed outdoors.
4. Time for the track for Gemma?
She may have narrowly missed out on victory in Manchester, but Gemma Steel once again showed just how good she is on the road, splitting Kenyan heavy weights Betsy Saina and Edna Kiplagat, to finish second in the 10k race.
Yet it is her time of 31.55 that impresses me the most, a time that is 25 seconds faster than the British 10,000m world championship qualifying standard on the track.
Yet while Saina and the victor of the men’s race Stephen Sambu, both spoke about their desire to make it on that surface this season, Steel still insisted her main target is to break her road best for the 10k.
Although I understand that she feels more comfortable racing on that surface, surely to be considered as a truly great British athlete she needs to make an impact when the world will really be watching her, either at the world championships or the Olympic Games.
Go on Gemma, it’s worth a crack!
5. The Final call for another hero
A fortnight ago we waved goodbye to Paul Radcliffe’s competitive career and now here in Manchester the curtains closed on the magnificent career of Haile Gebrselassie.
It brings to end an amazing 25 years of running in which he has won two Olympic golds, 9 world titles while setting 25 world records in the process.
Although such achievements deserve to be applauded, it is perhaps his character and presence that made him become such a global icon.
For me, as someone who stands at only five foot six on a good day, the pocket rocket’s performances have inspired the belief that even short runners can excel in the world of distance running that has so often been dominated by freakishly tall ectomorphs.
Of course like Paula, Haile was quick to insist that this was only the end of his competitive battle with the sport, and so we can rest assured that he will still be churning out the miles in Addis Ababa for years to come!
Rather ironically on a day he called it a quits, another distance legend Bernard Lagat trounced his world masters record for the distance. While there’s no sign of Lagat slowing up anytime soon, it’s great to see so many top athletes following in Gebrselassie’s footsteps and pushing themselves well past the previous retirement age expected of them.
Any other business:
It’s hard enough to run the London marathon, let alone to follow it up two weeks later by taking part in a stacked 10k. Yet that’s just what Kenyan stars Edna Kiplagat and Wilson Kipsang did. Finishing a highly creditable 3rd and 4th respectively too!
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