Former world cross country champion Agnes Tirop defended her World 10km Bangalore Road race held yesterday in India, failing to improve on her time she set last year.
Last year, Tirop ran the course record of 31:19 but yesterday, she edged out Ethiopia’s Letsenbet and Senbere Teferi in a photo finish race, timing 33:55, two minutes slower than last year.
In a steady race, the lead kept changing within a group of eight before Tirop, who was fourth coming into the stadium, unleashed a sensational assault in the final 200 meters to outrun Gidey just after the final bend on the track.
“My tactic was only to win, I wasn’t looking at the time,” said Tirop. “Race was slow. We’re all so strong and we were afraid of each other. I was waiting for the kick, and the last kick is so difficult, but I did my best. I’m happy to win and defend my title.”
In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu set the pace right from the start and pushed all the way to the end to break Kenya’s hold in the men’s division with a time of 27:56.
Surprise package Mande Bushendich (28:03) of Uganda kept up with Belihu before falling back late and finishing with the silver while Birhanu Legese (28:23) of Ethiopia came in a distant third. This was the first time after the very first edition in 2008 that a Kenyan did not finish on the podium among the men.
Belihu wrested control early, leading a pack of seven before Bushendich and Geoffrey Koech of Kenya started to push the Ethiopian after the halfway mark.
Having run the first half in 14:11s, Belihu broke off from the pack along with Bushendich, leaving Koech and Legese behind ahead of the 8km mark and then motored his way to a strong finish.
“I came here to run a fast race, maybe even the record, but it didn’t happen. But I’m happy,” said the 20-year-old.
“There were so many good runners and they will push so I had to run a fast race. I felt my knee a bit so I slowed down (in between) but I came back after. I’m happy because Mande pushed and he was so fast that I had to keep up.”
If the men’s race was decided by the runners’ decision to push the pace, it was the opposite in the women’s race.