THERE was no weeping under the willow for the African contingent, after visiting athletes won both the men’s and women’s events at yesterday’s Blaydon Race.
Celebrating in subdued fashion by taking shade underneath a tree just a short jog on from the hustle and bustle of the finish line, Ugandan Boniface Kiprop and Kenya’s Perendis Lekepana cut two unassuming figures given the magnitude with which they had blown away their respective fields.
Kiprop, the 27-year-old who won the 10,000 metres at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, covered yesterday’s 5.7-mile course in 26 minutes 23 seconds – 12 seconds faster than ‘Run-Fast’ team-mate Tewedros Shiferaw (pictured right).
The Ethiopian veteran had led the pack with Kiprop from half-way onwards before being left behind in the last half-mile, Wallsend Harriers’ Yared Hagos spearheading the local contenders with a creditable third-place finish in 27:09.
Evergreen Ian Hudspith, the Morpeth Harrier who had been handed the No 1 vest in recognition of top-six finishes in each of his eight attempts at the race, was once again in the mix with a well-deserved fourth, finishing in 27:19.
The 42-year-old was one place better than Blaydon’s very own Matthew Armstrong, and even with the local lad now running under the Coventry Godiva banner due to his studies in the Midlands the ovation he received at the end left him in no doubt as to the pride felt from his home club.
The women’s event was taken by Lekepana in 29:52, her Run-Fast team-mate, Emily Biwott, following in second more than a minute later in 30:58.
Taking shade after his exertions in the Tyneside sun, the victorious Kiprop said: “The level of competition was very good, but the race went nicely for me and my friend (Shiferaw).
“We led from about three miles in, and it was only in the last quarter of a mile that I really managed to pull away a little.”
Delivering a ringing endorsement for an event which has come on leaps and bounds since its foundation in 1981, when just 212 runners took part, the Ugandan added: “I loved competing in the Blaydon Race.
“It is a great event, really friendly, and I would definitely love to come back and defend my title next year.”
It was a sentiment which seemed to resonate with the field, all 4,000 places in the race snapped up within 24 hours of going online.
Club vests from all corners of the North East and beyond added colour aplenty in what remains one of the few major road races to be organised by a single club – in this case Blaydon Harriers.
It was a demonstration of what the North East does best, an enthusiastic field passing the folk along the road in the words of the famous Geordie anthem.
Their sentiment was returned in spades judging by the cheers from the galleries and, even after the disappointment of being pipped at the post, Shiferaw was in full agreement.
“Just look around – everybody is happy,” said the 2007 winner, side by side with his team-mate.
“You always love being involved in events that make people happy. That’s what it is all about.”
Had there been a constructors’ championship for the Blaydon Race his Run-Fast crew would have literally ran away with it, the Ethiopian stating: “It was a fantastic race. For myself and my friend to get first and second place was a great result for us.
“We were together for most of the way, but he just a had a bit more at the finish and pulled away from me.
“It was a good team effort though after training together for the last two weeks.
“I am happy, despite coming second.
“I have another half-marathon to come in two weeks, but I enjoy competing in the Blaydon Race and I really wanted to be here again.”