In the Prefontaine meet last year, the winning time for the 10k was near the 26:40 clip. The race came down to a brawl between Mo Farah of the UK, and some of the best runners out of Ethiopia, Kenya, and the United States. While this year’s installment did take a hit when Olympic Champ Farah decided to drop out, but speak of Bekele wanting to hit the first 5k in 13:18 gave distance fans a lot to look forward to. Though the race was good, with all the hype, and the ridiculous times from last year, the meet was set up to disappoint.
While some of the blame needs to be placed on the rabbits faltering from the initial decided pace, the fact remains that Bekele did not run 13:18 5k pace for his 10k. He did, however, put on an impressive show to outkick young gun Imane Merga of Ethiopia to win the 2013 Pre Classic in a time of 27:12:08.
Pacers Degefa Deriba, Kidane Tadasse, and Leonard Korir were supposed to take the pace out at 13:18, in hopes of securing a winning time around 26:50. This was to appease distance fans, as well as give Bekele a shot at making the Ethiopian world championship team. At 3k, the pace was slow around 8:05:71, and the 5k was reached in 13:33:51. 12 competitors were still in contention at this point.
The race became interesting on the final lap. At the bell Bekele took over the leading duties and was quickly followed by Imane Merga. Merga is known for his closing speed, and has youth on his side. With 200m left to go the race was up to just two men. Bekele’s final 100m was enough to give him a small gap over his countryman, closing his final 400m in around 55 seconds.
Ethiopians went 1-2-3, with Abera Kuma coming in 3rd in 27:13:10. The first non-African finisher was Mohammed Ahmed of Canada. Ahmed placed 13th in a time of 27:50. He is known for being a standout at Wisconsin, and a top-5 NCAA Cross Country finisher. No Americans ran in this race.
While the pace was disappointing, and the pacers failed at their jobs, seeing Bekele finish ahead of the pack is always a treat. Will his training and pedigree allow him to be on the World’s team this summer in Moscow? If so, does he have what it takes to battle it out with Mo Farah for the gold?