By AYUMBA AYODI
Kenya’s Linet Masai and John Mwangangi battled against strong northern headwind to recapture the Dam to Dam 10 miles races in the Netherlands Sunday.
For Masai, who is the 2009 World 10,000m champion, it was a good test before she starts the cross-country season. On the other hand, Mwangangi, the 2012 World Half Marathon will be back in Amsterdam next month for the marathon.
Masai, who won this race in 2009 in 50:39, did not enter the race as the favourite. This year, she had to face Olympic marathon champion Tiki Gelana and 2010 Damloop winner Hilda Kibet of the Netherlands, who were supposed to be in a better shape.
Since winning the world 10,000m title in 2009 and taking three successive silver medals at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships between 2009 and 2011, Masai’s progress had stalled.
“I had a major calf injury, ” Masai explained after crossing the line in 53:09. “I had to take a long rest of two months in the beginning of this year and since then I’am building up again.”
It was Gelana, however, who led the race in the first kilometres through a long tunnel. Masai and Kibet kept up with the Ethiopian, but shortly after 5km (16:16) Masai took the lead and none of the other women could follow her.
After passing 10km in 32:58 and 15km in 49:30, Masai finished in 53:09. Gelana, who is preparing for the Yokohama Women’s Marathon in November, was a distant second in 53:57.
The men’s race was a tough one.
Passing 5km in 14:02 and 10km in 28:26, the pace was solid as defending champion Nguse Amlosom of Eritrea and Mwangangi, the 2010 winner, tried to keep up with the two youngsters.
Peter Kirui, who finished third last year, was also in contention and the lead group was aware of the fact that the strong northern headwind would play a big role between 10km and 14km in the open field between Amsterdam and Zaandam.
Arriving in Zaandam, where a big crowd of spectators were cheering the leaders and the 45,000 runners behind them, Mwangangi, Amlosom and Atelaw left Masai behind, passing 15km in 42:40.
The finish came down to a sprint between two former winners, but this time Mwangangi had the edge over Amlosom. He kicked with 500 metres to go and left the rest behind, winning in 45:45.
“I’m preparing for a marathon and because of all the enduring training, I’am not as fast as I used to be,” said Mwangangi. “But in the first part of the race I could just stay near the back of the leading group to save my energy. That helped me out at the finish.”
Courtesy of nation.co.ke