2015 Great Manchester Run Preview: Lagat’s 10K Debut vs. Wilson Kipsang & Haile G

By LetsRun.com
May 8, 2015

The biggest event on the running calendar this weekend is in Manchester, England, as a top-notch field will contest the Morrisons Great Manchester Run (10K) including former marathon world record holders Haile Gebrselassie and Wilson Kipsang and the USA’s Bernard Lagat, who will be making his 10K debut. The women’s race also has some big names including 2012 Olympic marathon champ Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia, 2004/2012 Olympic 5,000 champ Meseret Defar of Ethiopia (UPDATE: Defar has scratched due to illness) and top British pros Gemma Steel (2014 European XC champ) and Jo Pavey (2014 European 10,000 champ).

We tell you everything you need to know about the race below.

What: Morrisons Great Manchester Run

Where: Manchester, England

When: Sunday, May 10. Women’s race starts at 11:15 a.m. BST (6:15 a.m. ET), men’s race at 11:37 a.m. BST (6:37 a.m. ET)

How to watch: For UK viewers (or people with UK IPs), live on BBC Two starting at 11:00 a.m. BST.

Article continues below player.

Official site * Course map

Elite men’s field

Haile Gebrselassie Ethiopia
Wilson Kipsang Kenya
Leonard Komon Kenya
Bernard Lagat USA
Stephen Sambu Kenya
Stephen Mokoka South Africa
Tesfaalem Mehari Ethiopia
Ross Millington Great Britain
Lee Merrien Great Britain

Elite women’s field

Edna Kiplagat Kenya
Gemma Steel Great Britain
Jo Pavey Great Britain
Tiki Gelana Ethiopia
Caroline Kilel Kenya
Betsy Saina Kenya
Fionnuala Britton Ireland
Diane Nukuri Burundi
Jelena Prokopcuka Latvia

Lagat Tackles the 10K

For American fans, the big story in this one is the 10K debut of Bernard Lagat, the American record holder at 1500 and 5,000 meters on the track. For some fans, this race might be evidence that a 10,000 on the track could be in the cards for the 40-year-old, but when we caught up with him before the Carlsbad 5000 in March, he assured us that the 5,000 will remain his focus for the foreseeable future.

“It’s still going to be 5,000, especially as we get ready for the Beijing World Championships,” Lagat said. “5,000 meters is still my event and that’s the only one I’m going to be focusing on.”

Lagat on the roads in Carlsbad earlier this year Lagat on the roads in Carlsbad earlier this year

So why run the 10K in Manchester?

“I just want to mix it up a little bit. As I get older, I just want to experience the other side of running (road racing).

“The opportunity to run with Haile Gebrselassie in Manchester 10K is something I don’t want to pass [on].”

It makes sense. Lagat’s pro career is drawing to a close, and no one can fault him for wanting to get the most out of the sport before he retires. As Lagat mentioned, this race offers two opportunities: the chance to tackle a new distance and a chance to race against an all-time great in Gebrselassie.

Since turning 40 in December, Lagat has been on a mission to take down as many masters records as possible. Already this year he’s broken world masters marks at one mile, 3,000 meters and two miles indoors in addition to 5K on the roads. In most of those races, Lagat was a shoo-in to break the world record. That’s not the case on Sunday, as the masters world record is 28:00.0, set by Gebrselassie in this race two years ago. The American masters record of 29:37, held by University of Minnesota coach Steve Plasencia, seems likely to fall, however.

Speaking of Gebrselassie, according to All-Athletics.com, Sunday will mark just the second time he and Lagat have raced (the first was the 3,000 at the 2004 Boston Indoor Games, with Gebrselassie winning in 7:35.24 to Lagat’s fourth-place 7:44.58). If you’re wondering why Geb, who is just 20 months older than Lagat, hasn’t raced Lagat much, it’s because Geb started out as a 5k/10k guy who moved to the marathon as he got older. Lagat started as a 1500 guy who moved to the 3k/5k. By the time Lagat was racing the longer stuff on the track, Geb was already on the roads. Geb only ran one race last year (30:00 for third at the Singapore 10K in December). At 42, it’s unlikely he’ll win on Sunday, but he’ll certainly run the farthest of any elite: once he finishes the race, he’s planning on jogging the course again with a later wave of runners.

So what to expect from Lagat? We know he’s relatively fit. Indoors he ran 3:54 for the mile and 7:37 for 3000. Outdoors, he ran a 13:41 on the roads at Carlsbad and most recently ran 4:04.67 at the Grand Blue Mile in Des Moines on April 21. A sub-28:00 seems unlikely for two reasons 1) His focus is on the 5000 and 2) Only twice in the last five years has the winning time been under 28:00:

Last 5 Year’s Winning TiImes
2010  Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 28:02
2011  Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 28:10
2012  Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:39
2013  Moses Kipsiro (UGA) 27:52:00
2014  Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 28:23

A time in the low-28:00s is certainly possible.

Lagat ran 62:33 in his only half marathon in 2013 and LRC stats guru John Kellogg‘s conversion chart equates a that to around 28:17 for 10K. We’d be surprised if Lagat ran faster than that considering that he’s two years older than he was when he ran 62:33, but theoretically Lagat should be much better at 10K than the half marathon given his track background. Really, it’s dependent on race dynamics: if the leaders are on sub-28:00 pace, Lagat may let them go, which would make it more difficult for him to run quickly since he’d likely be alone. However, it’s supposed to be windy on Sunday (a 14 mph cross wind is in the forecast) so if it’s a 28:20 race like last year, Lagat might be right in the mix. Given his inexperience at the distance and his current fitness, if we were to suggest an over/under for Lagat, we’d put it at 28:40.

Don’t read too much into Lagat’s performance on Sunday. This race should be fun, but Lagat is right to focus on the 5,000 on the track. His low-mileage approach works in the 5,000 because of his lifetime base and his closing speed at the end of races. Hanging around for 25 laps in the 10,000 is a much tougher task for a low-mileage guy. All those 65- and 66-second laps wear on you and in a World Championship/Olympic 10,000, he’d likely be fried before the kicking really starts.

Who are the favorites?

As appealing as some of the names are in this race — Lagat! Haile G! Kipsang! — if we’re talking about who’s going to win the race, it’s likely going to be a 10k guy in his prime, which none of those men are. 27-year-old Leonard Komon is certainly a 10k guy — his 26:44 road pb is the world record — and while that time is from five years ago, he’s still run pretty well in 2015, with a taking third at the Prague Half Marathon in 59:57 on March 28 and running 28:28 for fourth at the Great Ireland Run on April 11. Stephen Mokoka has enjoyed a terrific year so far, and though he’s only raced outside of South Africa once (he was 29th at World XC in China), he ran solo efforts of 28:15 and 13:11 on back-to-back days to win the South African 10,000 and 5,000 titles on the track last month. Mokoka was third last year in this race in 29:11. Another track star in the field is 2011 10,000 world champ Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia, but it’s hard to tell what kind of shape he’s in given he hasn’t raced since October. Will Jeilan, who is still only officially 25, still be a factor on the track this summer? We may get an answer on Sunday. (UPDATE: Jeilan has scratched).

Sambu (left) just missed out to training partner Leonard Korir at the NYC Half in March Sambu (left) just missed out to training partner Leonard Korir at the NYC Half in March

Komon and Mokoka will have a shot, but the favorite might be Lagat’s Arizona training partner Stephen Sambu, who has been a dominant force on the roads the past few years. He was third at the World’s Best 10K on March 1 (28:56, winner 28:51) and narrowly missed winning the NYC Half (61:07 to 61:06) two weeks later before claiming the Shamrock Shuffle 8K in Chicago on March 29 (23:03). Most recently, he ran 13:23 to finish a second behind Ben True at the B.A.A. 5K on April 18.

In the women’s race, it’s unlikely marathoners Tiki Gelana (2012 Olympic champ), Edna Kiplagat (who ran London on April 26) and Caroline Kilel (who ran Boston on April 20) win over 10k, and though 41-year-old Jo Pavey is a great story, she’s also a long shot here. With Defar absent, the top contenders are the UK’s Gemma Steel (18th at World XC, won Great Ireland Run in 33:03 on April 11), Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton, who finished four seconds back of Steel at the Great Ireland Run and Kenyan Betsy Sainalast year’s Falmouth Road Race champ who ran 15:00 on the track last weekend at Stanford.

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Where’s the prize money?

The Great Manchester Run has an interesting prize money structure, to say the least. The overall winners on the men’s and women’s side take home just $800, with $500 for second and $300 for third. Meanwhile, there’s also British-only prize money, which is as follows:

1st: $2,000
2nd: $1,500
3rd: $1,000
4th: $750
5th: $500

That’s right. The fourth British finisher in each race makes almost as much as the overall winner. While that is a bit ridiculous, the top foreign athletes likely won’t be too upset as they almost certainly received hefty appearance fees to race here. Why else would runners such as Wilson Kipsang or Edna Kiplagat, who ran the London Marathon just two weeks ago, agree to run a 10K road race with minimal prize money? In this sport, races can either offer exorbitant appearance fees (London Marathon) or exorbitant prize money (Dubai Marathon). It seems pretty clear which approach the Great Manchester Run has taken.

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