In her first race back since 2014, and the last Great Manchester Run she completed, Tirunesh Dibaba ran 31:16 to run a convincing win in front of 35,000 runners.
Here is how we saw the race and spoke with Tirunesh:
Leaving her baby at home in Ethiopia with her family, Tirunesh Dibaba ventured to Manchester, England to test her fitness and her plans for another Olympic challenge.
Anyone who has observed Tirunesh Dibaba knows that she takes challenges on and she will accept nothing but winning. Her return to the roads, and then, the 10,000 meters on the track will be no different.
The race started out relaxed, with Diana Nukuri taking the lead. “The pace was easy, so I lead.” noted Diane Nukuri after the race.
The pace was 3:11 for the first kilometer, with Gemma Steel, Fionnuala McCormac, Edna Kiplagat, Diane Nukuri, and Tirunesh Dibaba in first group.
Tirunesh Dibaba took the lead just before the second kilometer, hit in 6:22, with Diane Nukuri and Edna Kiplagat on her shoulders. “I wanted test myself” noted a very happy Dibaba after the race.
Dibaba looked like her old self, light of foot, long stride, high arm carriage.
Edna Kiplagat looked strong, and so did Diane Nukuri. This writer wondered, “Which Dibaba would we see?” In a first race back, was Tirunesh Dibaba asking herself just too much?
The 3k was hit in 9:33, and the four kilometers and five kilometers progressed, hit in about 15:40. Nukuri, Dibaba and Kiplagat were together.
Then, Tirunesh Dibaba put the hammer down. The Ethiopian super star, known at the baby faced destroyer, possesses some muscle memory. Her 22 medals at major events (including fifteen gold, with her first gold, at 18, in St. Denis at the WC 5000 meters), describe an athlete who settles for little else but excellence.
Between kilometer five and six, Tirunesh Dibaba flew, running 3:04 and Diane Nukuri went off the back, finishing third in the race in 31:49, with a three second personal best.
And then, there were two….
Edna Kiplagat and Tirunesh Dibaba were dueling. At 25:03, the 8 kilometer mark was hit and Tirunesh looked to be straining a bit. ” I was worried,” Tirunesh told me after the race. Edna Kiplagat tookt the lead, but it was short lived.
The 9 kilometer mark was a wake up call for Tirunesh Dibaba, as she moved next to Edna Kiplagat, and passed her. With 800 meter to go, Tirunesh Dibaba started to push again, but also looked back several times to see if she had broken Edna Kiplagat.
Edna Kiplagat fought hard, but she was running for second, and ran 31:25, a pb after a six year drought in 10k!
Tirunesh Dibaba used that muscle memory and pushed all the way home, winning in 31:16.
” I was happy with the race, but I was worried during the race too. It was a time to test my fitness, ” Tirunesh Dibaba said through her translator.
When this writer asked Tirunesh Dibaba about her next race, she made it quite clear that we would see her run a 10,000 meters somewhere soon.
Tirunesh Dibaba has won Manchester, and now, her eyes are focused on Rio. That will be up to the fitness she shows over 10,000 meters and the Ethiopian selectors.
Tirunesh Dibaba, is now focused on Rio.
2016 Great Manchester Run, Women, 1. Tirunesh Dibaba, ETH, 31:16, 2. Edna Kiplagat, KEN, 31:25, 3. Diane Nukuri, BDI, 31:49, 4. Dominika Napieraj POL, 32:22, 5. Fionnuala McCormac, IRL, 32:23, 6. Christelle Daunay, FRA, 32:23, 7 Veronica Inglese, ITA, 32:26, 8. Gemma Steel, GBR, 32:43, 9. Iwona Lewandowska, POL, 33:55, 10.Rachel Felton, GBR, 34:09, â€ª#â€Žgreatmanchesterrunâ€¬,