Women's long distance & road running | 29.12.2012
|Ana Dulce Félix won the 10,000m in Helsinki.
This was a lean year for Europe at the top end of this event with no woman from the continent breaking 15 minutes; although there were eight women under 15:10, which was an improvement on the five that reached that standard in 2011.
This year's fastest times were set in the Olympic Games heats with the top six women all clocking their best times of the season In the London preliminaries.
Leading the way was Great Britain's Julia Bleasdale, who ran 15:02.00 for 20th place on the 2012 world list. Now 31, Bleasdale only returned to the track in 2011 after a six year absence and she sliced more than 40 seconds off her previous best this summer.
However, she had to concede the honour of being the first European home in the Olympic final to her team mate Jo Pavey, who finished seventh and one place in front of Bleasdale.
Finishing immediately behind the British pair in London was the 2012 Russia champion Olga Golovkina, who had also won the European title over the distance six weeks before.
In Helsinki, Portugal's Sara Moreira lead into the home straight but first Golovkina and then Ukraine's Lyudmyla Kovalenko went past her, the latter in the closing metres in a tight finish between the leading trio. The Russian took the gold medal in 15:11.70 with Kovalenko second with 15:12.03 and Moreira just two-hundredths further back.
Russia's Yelena Nagovitsyna was the second fastest European in 2012, running 15:02.80 in her Olympic heat before finishing 13th in the final.
Great Britain's Jo Pavey failed in her bid to get selected for the marathon at the Olympic Games, her preferred event, but then turned her attention to the track and the 39-year-old runner acquitted herself admirably.
She ran the fastest time by a European this year when she clocked 30:53.20 in London to finish seventh, with the longest event on the track being a straight final.
Just like in the London 5000m final, Pavey's compatriot Julia Bleasdale finished just behind her, the pair repeating their positions from the shorter race with both women setting personal bests over 25 laps of the track and the latter finishing eighth in 30:55.63.
With very few top level 10000m races on the international calendar, this meant that the two British runners were ranked a very creditable eighth and ninth on the 2012 world list.
Pavey had earlier in the season two other good 10,000m outings, finishing second at the European Cup 10000m in the Spanish city of Bilbao behind Portugal's Sara Moreira in 31:32.22, with the winner (who improved her personal best to 31:16.34 at the Olympics) going through the line in 31:23.51.
She then went on to finish second at the European Athletics Championships, her first major championship medal on the track in a fine career which has seen her go so close to a place on the podium so often, again finishing behind a runner in a Portuguese vest.
Ana Dulce Félix broke away at 7000m and never looked like being challenged in Helsinki, eventually crossing the line in 31:44.75, while Pavey won the battle for second place with Ukraine's Olga Skrypak, the two being timed at 31:49.03 and 31:51.32.
Ireland's 2011 and 2012 SPAR European Cross country Championships winner Fionnuala Britton made a very promising debut at the event when she ran 31:29.22 in Stanford, California, in April but things didn't go right for her at the summer's two major championships. She finished fourth in Helsinki and back in 15th at the Olympics.
Similarly, Russia's Yelizaveta Grechishnikova ran 31:07.88, the third fastest European time of the year, on her debut at the distance to win the Moscow Challenge 10000m in June but was then more than a minute adrift of that time when finishing 19th in London.
You can argue long and hard over who was Europe's number one female marathon runner this year but one thing it's certain, it will be a Russian name.
Liliya Shobukhova ran the fastest time by a European with 2:22:59 for fourth place at the Chicago Marathon but she had failed to finish at the Olympic Games two months earlier, pulling out just after the halfway mark with a right high problem.
By contrast, her compatriot Tatyana Arkhipova, perhaps better known as better known as Tatyana Petrova who was second in the 2007 World Championships 3000m steeplechase, caused a big surprise when she finished third at the Olympics in a personal best of 2:23:29, taking more than a minute off her previous best set at the 2011 Berlin Marathon.
It was Russia's first Olympic medal at the event since Valentina Yegorova, the 1992 champion, got a silver medal in 1996 in Atlanta.
This was a good event generally for Europe at the Olympic Games. Ukraine's Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko finished fifth in what was then a national record of 2:24:32 and there were five Europeans in the top 10 in London.
Hamera-Shmyrko's national standard was improved in the autumn by Olga Shurhno, who didn't compete in London, but ran 2:213:32 for third place at the Berlin Marathon and third also on the European list for 2012.
At the half marathon, Italy's Valeria Straneo ran 67:46 in the quick Roma-Ostia race in February for the fastest time by a European this year and she moved up to seventh in the European all-time list.
It was an excellent year for Straneo, who improved the Italian marathon record to 2:23:44 when finishing second in Rotterdam in April and then she came home eighth at the Olympics.
Overall, eight European women ran faster than 70 minutes over the half marathon this year.
The 2012 European top 30 lists can be found here.