World marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe took in the sights of Sunderland and the support of the crowds before being outkicked for first place in the Siglion Sunderland Half Marathon yesterday.
But Sunderland’s own marathon star, Alyson Dixon, who found the speed in the last 50 metres to snatch victory.
Although the result is not all that it seems, as both athletes took a low-key approach to the race and agreed to run together over the 13.1-mile distance at a comfortable pace, for them, of around 85 minutes.
But the Sunderland Stroller, the recent winner of the British Marathon title in London, found that her competitive instinct got the better of her in the closing stages.
“Paula said should we hold hands as we cross the finish and I instantly said no and I was off!,” said Dixon.
Dixon got the verdict by just one second, clocking 1hr 23min 01sec to finish 25th overall, with Radcliffe 26th.
Radcliffe said: “Aly certainly caught me unaware and she was off before I could respond. But it was all in the fun of the event for us.
“The crowds were great and the support superb. It was good just to be able to take in the atmosphere and helping other runners, encouraging them along.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Sunderland. There was a really big event atmosphere in the city.’’.
If Radcliffe and Dixon were out for a Sunday morning stroll, the other runners behind them were certainly not.
A battling Jenny Watt of Midlands club Vale Royal took third place (1.25.27), just ahead of Sunderland Harrier Alice Smith (1.25.33) after an epic battle between the pair thoughout the race.
The men’s result ended in an easy win for Saltwell Harrier Abraham Tewelde, who won by nearly three minutes in 1.10.07.
The Eritrean had already won the Keswick half-marathon and the Alnwick 10k during the week and added the £300 first prize to his week’s earnings.
New Marske’s Tristan Learoyd was second (1.13.03) and Stephen Jackson of Elvet Striders finished third (1.15.03).
Sunderland Harrier Steve Potts was fifth (1.17.42) and Wearside triathlete Paul Robson was one place behind in sixth (1.17.45).
Sunderland Strollers had Chris Dyer 20th (1.22.16) and Michael Henderson 45th (1.25.58), Houghton Harrier Rory Graham came 22nd (1.22.50).
Sunderland Harriers also placed Martin Blenkinsop in 31st (1.23.49) and Tony Allinson 69th ((1.28.52).
The cold, icy, strong winds around the course played havoc with any runners who were out for a personal best in both races.
In the 10k going over Wearmouth Bridge for the first time, there was a group of three together, with defending champion Jonny Taylor (Morpeth), former Sunderland Harrier Weynay Ghebresilasie and Leeds City athlete Wondiye Indelbu.
Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell was off the pace 50 metres behind.
But it was Taylor who showed his class after a tour of Roker before making his move with 1k left to go on the return to Wearmouth Bridge and into Keel Square for the finish.
The international athlete recorded 31.03 for a comfortable victory, 23 seconds in front of Ghebresilasie, who was running in the colours of his Scottish club, Shettleston Harriers. Indelbu was third in 31.29.
Taylor said: “The pace had been too slow. We were down to six-minute miling at one point with no one prepared to take the lead. That’s when I decided to go for it a long way from home.’’
Andy Powell led a batch of Sunderland Harriers well placed in the 2000-strong field. He finished fourth (33.19), then came Michael Barker in eighth (34.06), Simon O’Donnell 11th (34.49), Michael Thompson 13th (35.47), Tim Field 20th (36.56), Michael Laws 24th (37.56), Kris Cantle 47th (39.50), Paul Collins 55th (40.12) and Jimmy Johnson 60th (40.36). Houghton Harrier Lee Dover finished 10th (34.41).
Andrew Davison led Sunderland Strollers in 16th (36.05), Mike Hobson was 39th (39.01).
The women’s race was won by Alison Dargie of Tyne Bridge Harriers in 30th place overall (38.28). Sunderland Harrier Jacqueline Etherington, who has recently transferred from Tyne Bridge Harriers, was second (40.42). She was the winner of the North East 2000m steeplechase title last Tuesday.
Sunderland Stroller Wendy Chapman took the bronze medal with a time of 40.49 and Gillian Ritchie was ninth (43.32). There was also a good run from Sunderland Harrier Amy Callaghan, who raised eyebrows with her fourth position after just a few weeks in the sport (41.35). Michelle Avery was 12th (44.30).
Event founder and race director Steve Cram commented: “The Run Sunderland Festival goes from strength to strength. Once again, both the Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10K events attracted record fields.
“The windy conditions provided a good test for participants, but there were still some excellent performances and it was brilliant to watch Paula Radcliffe and local star Aly Dixon running together around the streets of Sunderland.’’