Andamlak Belihu is starting to become a familiar face to Indian distance running fans after he added to the TCS World 10K Bengaluru 2019 title to the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon crown he won seven months ago, crossing the line in the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in 27:56.
It was a triumph to savour for the 20-year-old Ethiopian, who beat a worldclass field and produced an outstanding time in difficult conditions with high humidity and temperatures reaching 26 degrees centigrade.
Right from the gun, Belihu was prominent at the front of the leading pack, often forcing the pace. Eight men went through the 5km mark in 14:11 before Uganda’s Mande Bushendich made an audacious early move just after the halfway point.
Bushendich, who already has one major 10km win to his name in 2019 having won the famous Pareloop race in the Netherlands, went through the gears so rapidly that the leading group was quickly fractured and by the 7km mark only Belihu was left to challenge him.
It initially looked as though Belihu was also going to be dropped as he briefly struggled to stay with his rival – later saying that he had suffered some knee pain with then passed – but he took the lead again with just under two kilometres to go before he pulled away, never to be headed all the way to the line in the Garden City’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
Belihu crossed the line in 27:56, just eight seconds outside his personal best and 12 seconds off the course record.
“I expected to run a fast time as there were so many good runners in this race, but I also expected to run even faster than this,” reflected Belihu, with a mixture of emotions at the post-race press conference.
Bushendich finished second in 28:03. “I was surprised no one else came with me when I made my move just after halfway,” said the revelation of the race, adding that he also had been running on empty having eschewed having any breakfast.
Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese, the Tokyo Marathon winner earlier in the year and Tata Steel Kolkata 25K winner in December, found the distance just a little on the short side for his talents but came through to finish third in 28:23. (Top 10 finishers listed below.)
Agnes Tirop’s finishing time may have been more than two minutes slower than her course record run to win 12 months ago but the IAAF World Championships London 2017 10,000m bronze medallist made a winning start to her 2019 campaign and defended her title, becoming the first woman to win back-to-back titles in the 12-year history of the Bengaluru race.
It was clear from the leisurely opening kilometres that this was going to be a much slower race than in 2018, which Tirop won in 31:19, and group of nine women went through the first half of the race in a modest 18:06, more than two minutes down on last year’s split.
Tirop herself injected regular short bursts of pace during the next three kilometres but none were sustained, and they did nothing to break up the group apart from dropping Bahrain’s 2017 world marathon champion Rose Chelimo.
Coming into the Bengaluru’s famous Cubbon Park, eight women were still closely grouped together and that was still the situation as they entered the stadium for one final lap of the track.
Ethiopia’s Letsenbet Gidey darted into the lead on entering the stadium but, with 50 metres to go, Tirop still had plenty in reserve and emerged victorious in a thrilling five-woman sprint for the line.
Tirop won in 33:55 – in sharp contrast to the fast men’s race it was the slowest winning time in the history of the event – with just two seconds covering the top five, with the Kenyan being followed home by five Ethiopian women.
“I would have liked to have run faster and I did my best but no one else wanted to push hard so I was just content with the win,” said Tirop, who also declared her ambition to return next year and bid for a hat trick of wins.
Senbere Teferi was second and Gidey third, both women also given 33:55; 2018 world half marathon champion Netsanet Gudeta was fourth in 33:56 with Dera Dida one second further back in fifth place.
The TCS World 10K Bengaluru 2019 has a total prize fund of US$213,000, with the men’s and women’s winners each taking home US$26,000.
An estimated 25,000 runners took to the roads for five different races in what has become one of highlights of Bengaluru’s sporting year.
In addition to the TCS World 10K for elite runners, there is an Open 10K, the Majja Run (5km) the Senior Citizens’ Race and Champions with Disability Race
1. Andamlak Belihu (ETH) 27:56
2. Mande Bushendich (UGA) 28:03
3. Birhanu Legese (ETH) 28:23
4. Geoffrey Koech (KEN) 28:27
5. Matthew Kimeli (KEN) 28:36
6. Paul Tanui (KEN) 28:39
7. Kaan Kigen Ozbilen (TUR) 28:49
8. Vincent Kiprotich Kibet (KEN) 29:15
9. Bedan Karoki (KEN) 29:32
10. Aweke Ayalew (BRN) 29:40
1. Agnes Tirop (KEN) 33:55
2. Senbere Teferi (ETH) 33:55
3. Letsenbet Gidey (ETH) 33:55
4. Netsanet Gudeta (ETH) 33:56
5. Dera Dida (ETH) 33:57
6. Tsehay Gemechu (ETH) 33:59
7. Evaline Chirchir (KEN) 34:04
8. Alia Mohamed Alia Saeed (UAE) 34:13
9. Rose Chelimo (BRN) 35:08
10. Sanjivani Jadhav (IND) 35:10