Azimeraw and Katir end year on a high in Madrid
Ethiopia’s Degitu Azimeraw and Spain’s Mohamed Katir captured commanding wins at the San Silvestre Vallecana, a World Athletics Elite Label road race, in Madrid on 31 December on a perfect night for running.
Azimeraw, contesting her first race since her 2:17:58 runner-up finish at the London Marathon in October, won in 30:26, the third-fastest winning time in the event’s history. Katir, meanwhile, won in 27:45, becoming the first Spanish man in 18 years to win in Madrid.
Two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri had been due to compete but she tested positive for Covid-19 and had to pull out on the eve of the race.
The women’s race started at a swift pace, the first kilometre being covered in 2:54 by Azimeraw, her fellow Ethiopian Haven Hailu and Kenya’s Edinah Jebitok. Israel’s Lonah Salpeter and Ethiopia’s Ayel Likina were a few strides behind, covering the first kilometre in 3:00.
The pace proved to be too quick for Hailu who lost ground before the third kilometre, covered in 8:46 by the lead group. Azemiraw and Jebitok went through the halfway point in 14:38, the quickest ever split and well on schedule to break the tough course record of 29:54. By then, Haven ran in third 13 seconds behind, Salpeter clocked 15:04 for Likina’s 15:11.
Azimeraw kept pushing hard over the following kilometres, possibly fearful of Jebitok’s finish, but she finally managed to leave the Kenyan behind just before the eighth kilometre at the beginning of the hardest section of the race.
Azimeraw’s cadence dropped significantly in the closing kilometres, missing her chance of breaking 30 minutes, but she still won comfortably in 30:26. Jebitok, recent winner at the Venta de Baños cross country meeting, was second in 30:44 in what was her first ever road race. Further back, the experienced Salpeter finished third in 31:14.
In contrast to the women’s race, the opening downhill kilometre in the men’s contest was covered in a relatively modest 2:46. It soon became clear that Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera, the current leader in the World Athletics Cross Country Tour, had no plans to be a front-runner. Instead, Spanish sub-2:09 marathon runners Daniel Mateo and Yago Rojo were the early leaders.
The lead pack continued at a steady 2:45/2:46 kilometre pace to reach 3km in 8:17 and halfway in 13:46. By then the lead group was still large and led by 40-year-old Spaniard Ayad Lamdassem.
Katir progressively moved to the front and shortly after the seventh kilometre (19:17) made a first serious attack which could be matched only by Kwizera while Kenya’s Shadrack Koech and Spain’s Nassim Hassaous began their own battle for third place.
Once at the uphill section of the race, Katir took command and gradually opened up a gap over Kwizera. By the time Katir crossed the line in 27:45, he had built a 10-second advantage over Kwizera, who in turn was 10 seconds ahead of Hassaous.
“It’s great to win such a prestigious race but I’m not at my peak yet,” said Katir, the Spanish record-holder at 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. “I’m now loading mileage and hope to be in top form in February when I would like to take part in several World Indoor Tour meets.”
posted Sunday January 2nd