NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom, Sep 11 – Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot piped compatriot Priscah Jeptoo to win the Great North Run women’s race on her debut in the world famous half marathon on Sunday.
Cheruiyot, who beat a packed women’s field that also included Ethiopian star Tirunesh Dibaba, clocked 1:7.54 to announce her marathon entrance in style on her birthday as she turned 33 years.
“I’m so happy because it’s my birthday. I found it tough with one kilometre to go but it’s fantastic for me to end my season this way,” Cheruiyot, who shifted to road races from track, said after the victory.
The women’s race was billed as a shoot-out between middle distance greats Cheruiyot, who is also Olympic silver medallist in the 10,000m and three-time Olympic champion Dibaba.
After a sluggish opening few miles, the lead pack was eventually reduced to five through mile five: Cheruiyot, Jeptoo, Joyce Chepkirui, Dibaba and Australian Eloise Wellings.
The 4:57 sixth mile proved too much for Wellings, leaving the remaining quartet to take turns with the lead over the next few miles.
Fifty-four minutes into the race only Cheruiyot and Jeptoo remained, with the former closely shadowing the latter after the pair broke from Dibaba, the winner of this race in 2012, who was desperately trying to maintain contact from about 10 metres back.
The Ethiopian made up some of the deficit but paid for it soon after when she was dropped for good with about 800 metres to go.
Jeptoo upped the tempo in the waning stage but began her breakaway attempt too early, allowing Cheruiyot to pounce 200 metres from the finish.
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah became the first man to win the men’s race three times in a row.
Farah pulled away from American Dathan Ritzenhein in the last mile in his first race since retaining his 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic titles in Rio.
Farah broke from Dathan Ritzenhein with just over a mile to go to coast to a 1:00:04 performance to win the Newcastle-to-South Shields race for the third consecutive year.
Farah’s victory came just 22 days after he concluded his historic Olympic double-double triumph in Rio de Janeiro where he successfully defended both his 5000 and 10,000m titles.
“To be honest with you, I’m knackered,” Farah told BBC Sport.
“I knew I had to work hard because Dathan is a former training partner and was running a great race. He put his foot down and tried to get rid of me because he knew I have amazing pace.”