MANCHESTER, U.K. – At the Morrison’s Great Manchester Road Race in Britain on Sunday, Bernard Lagat, who turned 40 late last year, eclipsed the world’s best Masters 10K time established in 2013 by the legendary long distance runner, Haile Gebreselassie of Ethiopia. When Gebreselassie set the standard last spring at this same race, he broke the existing mark, set in 2003 by Paolo Catarino (Portugal), by 51 seconds. Most observers thought the new mark would stand for years, possibly decades. Ironically, the BBC race commentator and legendary women’s long distance runner, Paula Radcliffe, of Great Britain, viewed any records, at the start of Sunday's race, as unlikely because of a significant headwind that would sometimes hinder the runners. She did concede that Lagat would likely get the American Masters record. But the conditions were not able to stop Lagat. This was Lagat’s debut at 10K on the roads after a winter of breaking Masters Indoor Track records. And a smashing debut it was, as he raced across the finish line in 27:48, 12 seconds under Gebreselassie’s existing world best.
Lagat indicated that the plan he and his coach, James Li, discussed before the race worked perfectly. And Lagat gave copious credit to his training partner and the overall winner, Stephen Sambu, for his encouragement during the race, noting that Sambu urged him forward after the first kilometer to move up and run in the lead group. Lagat finished third overall right behind South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka, and just ahead of Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, the former world marathon record holder who recently finished second in the London Marathon.
|The Elite Men waiting for the starting gun at the 2015 Great Manchester Run--Bernard Lagat in the center (in purple singlet) with his training partner, Stephen Sambu immediately to his left. [Photo posted to Twitter by Emily Evans],|
Despite the winds, the pace never lagged. Hitting the first kilometer in 2:41 and 2 kilometers in 5:24, the lead group of 6 made it clear they would not be hindered by conditions. The tight pack, including Sambu, Kipsang, Mokoka, Lagat, a young Ethiopian runner named Tesfaalem Mehari, and Leonard Komon (who set the current world record of 26:43.7 in 2010), hit the 5K mark in 13:51.
The last few kilometers were a tribute to Lagat’s grit as he had to run them in ‘No Man’s Land.’ Shortly after Sambu and Mokoka opened up a gap over Kipsang and Lagat, Lagat dropped Kipsang. Lagat had to run alone into the wind, chasing the leaders. He was not deterred and the amiable American and World Champion, so many times over, flashed his broad smile as he crossed the line, realizing he had another world's best in his pocket.
Not only did Lagat establish a World’s Best, it appears that, pending USATF certification, he matched the US Open 10K record of 27:48 by Mark Nenow in Phoenix in 1985 and, of course, also smashed the US Masters 10K record of 29:37 by Steve Plasencia at Cape Elizabeth Maine in 1998. Tom Bernhard, USATF Masters Rankings Coordinator noted that the Great Manchester Run is an IAAF Gold Label race so record certification of this overseas triumph should be expedited.
|The Podium Finishers at the 2015 Great Manchester Run and the New Holder of the World's Best Mark in the 10 Kilometer Run Smile and Wave to the Crowd [Photo from: http://www.greatrun.org/news-and-media/news/sambu-lagat-victorious-morrison-great-manchester-run]|
Although Lagat is far from done on the track, he has made an excellent transition to the roads so far. In April of this year, Lagat smashed the American Masters Road Record for 5 kilometers at the Carlsbad 5000 in 13:41, breaking John Tuttle’s 1999 record by 38 seconds. That performance also surpassed the World's Best Masters time of 13:55 established by the Kiwi runner, John Campbell (NZ) in 1991. It had stood up against many a challenger in those 24 years, but it could not stand up to Lagat. Now he has the World’s Best 10K Masters time and the World's Best 5K Masters time on the roads. I can hardly wait to see what comes next.
For a complete rundown on the results of the Great Manchester Run, please see their news release: