England Athletics Half Marathon champions crowned
Sunday’s now iconic Simplyhealth Great North Run incorporated the England Athletics Half Marathon Championships for the second successive year.
With a glorious and unprecedented track career coming to an end and a tally of three previous wins at the Great North Run, it was never really a question as to whether Sir Mo Farah of Newham and Essex Beagles (coach (Alberto Slalazar) would retain his England Champion status. The bigger question was perhaps how much had his final track season taken out of him and how would he secure a win against a strong international field looking for an opportunity to take a win over the superstar at the end of a long and emotional final track season?
Nathan Robertson (New Zealand) was one such runner and he certainly made Mo work for his win, but when it came to the final quarter mile and looking every bit the multiple World and Olympic title winner that he is, Farah clearly had fuel left in the tank and cruised to a fourth Great North Run title win and added England Athletics Champion to his vast collection of titles.
It was perhaps fitting that the highly successful Chris Thompson whose earlier career followed a similar path to that of Mo should once again join him on the podium at this event. And whilst Chris commented post-race that it certainly gets harder as you get older (now V35), he once again showed that longevity and experience count for a great deal. Paul Martelletti who matched his time from the Granollers Half Marathon back in February took to the podium for the bronze medal.
In contrast to the Men’s race the title for the Women’s England Athletics Champion was wide open with a number of potential contenders entered.
Local woman Aly Dixon, a popular with the North Eastern crowds took the bronze. And two of last year’s podium-placed athletes returned to the podium again in 2017; Lily Partridge converted her bronze in 2016 to a silver in 2017, whilst it was Gemma Steel who turned silver to gold this year. Steel is an experienced competitor at the GNR - having raced it five times previously since 2012. In both 2014 and 2015 she finished second overall to become the first Britain home after Mary Keitany (Kenya), clocking a best of 68:13 in 2014. It was Keitany who once again took the win on Sunday in a time of 65:59, with Steel finishing 6th overall, first Britain and English Champion in a time of 71:32.
Conditions were good for long distance running. Cool, but not too cold. The usual North Sea breeze and the undulations from a fast start to some long deceptive gradual climbs once again caught a few runners out and clearly this is a course that is to the advantage of those like Farah, Steel and Thompson who have mastered the course over a number of years and understand its unique challenges.
Gemma Steel (Club: Charnwood AC) 01:11:32
Lily Partridge (Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District AC, Coach: self) 01:12:10
Alyson Dixon (Club: Sunderland Strollers/Sunderland Uni, Coach: self) 01:12:29
Mo Farah (Club: Newham & Essex Beagles, Coach: Alberto Salazar) 01:00:06
Chris Thompson (Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District AC, Coach: Mark Rowland, Alan Storey) 01:05:28
Paul Martelletti (Club: Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets/Woodford Green Essex Ladies, Coach: Nick Anderson) 01:05:57
Photos by Mark Shearman