The women’s race at the European 10,000m Cup in London on Saturday (19) evening followed the script as Israel’s pre-race favourite Lonah Chemtai Salpeter forged her way to victory in a world-leading time and national record of 31:33.03.
Chemtai Salpeter led the European lists beforehand with a gun-to-tape time of 31:39.63 at the Israeli Championships and the 29-year-old led the race proper from start to finish again for a notable victory on the road to the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships where she is planning to contest both the 5000m and 10,000m.
The only other taker for the pace set by Kenya’s Margaret Kipkemboi was Romania’s former steeplechaser Ancuta Bobocel, a perennial fixture in European competitions both on the track and at cross country for more than a decade.
The pair reached halfway in 15:45 with a lead of nearly 200 metres on a huge group which included some of the stalwarts of European running, such as former European cross country champion Sophie Duarte from France and Sabrina Mockenhaupt from Germany, who was chasing the qualifying time of 32:55 for the European Championships in Berlin.
There were many subplots to follow as athletes chased domestic bragging rights, team positions and qualifying times for Berlin but back at the front of the race, Salpeter made a surge when the pacemaker dropped out, covering the sixth kilometre in a sprightly 3:04 - 30:40 pace for 10,000m - to put a gap on Bobocel.
But it was only in the very late stages that Salpeter extended the gap which was forged just after the halfway point. With the effort visible on her face, Bobocel still had Salpeter in her sights if she was to falter but the Kenyan-born runner - who moved to Israel in 2009 to work as a nanny - extended her winning margin over the last three laps to claim the biggest win on her career thus far.
“It’s the first time I ran with a crowd where they come so close to the inside lanes of the track. The track felt shorter because they were so close,” said Salpeter, who was better known as a marathon-runner prior to this season.
Salpeter crossed the line in a world-leading 31:33.03 with Bobocel second in a huge lifetime best of 31:43.12, slashing more than half-a-minute off her previous best ever time and lead Romania to the team title.
The first and second positions were all but confirmed from the early stages but Great Britain’s Charlotte Arter ran brilliantly in the closing stages - running the final kilometre one second faster than Salpeter - to extricate herself from the pack, securing third in 32:15.71, a PB by more than 20 seconds.
Great Britain also won a silver medal in the team race with Germany taking bronze. Their leading scorer was reigning European U20 5000m champion Miriam Dattke in 12th in 32:40.58 - inside the European Championships qualifying time - but Mockenhaupt fell just short, finishing 18th in 33:00.95.