Sunday 11 September 2011

Justina Heslop, the England Athletics 5000m champion, won the 14th adidas Women's 5k Challenge in London's Hyde Park today (Sunday 11 September) in convincing fashion, breaking clear of former Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist Liz Yelling in the early stages to clock an impressive 45 second victory in 15:59.

In an event dominated by Africans in recent years, Heslop is the first British winner since Paula Radcliffe's course record breaking performance of 14:51 in 2003, with most recent winners including double World Champion over 5000m and 10,000m Vivian Cheruiyot who took the London title in 2009, and World Championships bronze medallist Linet Masai, last year's winner.

In warm autumn sunshine and following a minute' silence in memory of events on 9/11, Heslop and Yelling raced into an immediate lead which soon grew to over ten seconds as they made their way along South Carriage Drive and into the first kilometre, which they passed through in 3:06.

As they made the sharp turn into Serpentine Road, Heslop - fourth in the Bupa London 10,000 in May - had developed a gap which was growing with every step. As she ran into Broad Walk and through the 2km mark (3:14), her lead on second-placed Yelling was as much as nine seconds with third placed Bryony Proctor out of sight behind them.

"I felt really, really strong," admitted Heslop who was ninth last year, "but I would never, ever, underestimate this amazing lady (Liz Yelling). "I was 100% aware of her behind me so I just had to keep pushing on."

By Speaker's Corner Heslop's lead had grown to 13 seconds over Yelling with the pair passing through 3km in 9:33 and 9:49 respectively, but Heslop was using her track speed and strength to pull further clear, and over the final two kilometres the gap had grown to an incredible 45 seconds as she sprinted home to finish just inside 16 minutes (15:59) to Yelling's 16:44 in second.

"It was tough because it was a bit blowy but I enjoyed it," said Heslop. "I've been training in Spain for a few weeks; I just wanted to get off the track and get some miles in and that endurance base has helped me today."

And while Heslop is building her mileage after a track summer, it was a welcome return to competitive road action for Yelling after she the struggled with injury in the 2011 Virgin London Marathon.

"I've been in full training and I plan to run hard" she said ahead of the race. "I've eased down over the last couple of days and I want to use this as a benchmark to see how I deal with the race situation.

"I had some instability in my pelvis going into the Virgin London Marathon and that was resulting in tightness in my hip. It came on around 14 miles and I was getting muscle cramps; it basically forced me to take some time out to get the right treatment. I've been concentrating a lot on my core strength and stability and I'm excited about racing again in my preparations for a marathon at the end of October."

"It was solid," she said at the finish. "Martin (her husband Martin Yelling) ran 16:20 in the Poole Park Run so that was my target and now he's one up on me, but I enjoyed it - it's nice to have a blow out and it's good to push outside of your comfort zone!"

"It's not as fast as I'd hoped for and it was hard with just the two of us. I didn't have the speed in my legs to keep with Justina but hopefully over the next two months I can really build on what I've done today."2009 World Championships 1500m silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey started the race alongside former World Youth Heptathlon Champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, but the brilliant atmosphere convinced track expert Dobriskey to get her racing shoes on and join the 9000 runners on the start line.

"We were doing the warm up and I saw so many people having so much fun I just wanted to be part of it," she said. "I really enjoyed it, there was no pressure and it was great to just enjoy running with people who are enjoying themselves so much, it was amazing."

A few familiar faces who also took part said:

Fatima Whitbread

“I wasn't sure about the feeling today, but pleased because it was a good strong run.  This distance isn't my normal environment as I'm a power event person, but I worked very hard for today and was aiming for between 25 and 28 minutes..... ran around 25 mins so pleased, but not as good as the 22 mins I got a few years ago!

The great thing about the adidas Women's 5k Challenge is that your’e in the mass and get to talk to everyone around you, so keeps you very grounded, and also you get to keep in touch with new athletes.

I was running for my own charity, '21st Century' which is a charity to keep kids off the streets, which has been going since 2007, on a shoestring budget!”

Denise Van Outen

“Great run, really enjoyed the fantastic atmosphere at the start, and a great way for so many women to meet and chat.  I particularly enjoyed hearing people's running stories and why they were running this event.  I was supporting 'Breast Cancer Care'.

I had no aches or pains at the end and did the time I was hoping for at approximately 40 minutes.”

1 Justina Heslop Clapham Chasers 15:59
2 Liz Yelling Bedford & County 16:44
3 Bryony Proctor Aldershot Farnham & District 17:54
4 Helena Tobin Brighton and Hove 18:04
5 Lauren Stewart Woodford Green with Essex Ladies 18:07