The inaugural IAAF world half-marathon championship, run in conjunction with the Great North Run on the curved course from Newcastle to the South Shields seafront, gave McColgan the chance to show that she had recovered from the recently diagnosed anaemia which she believes cost her success in the world cross- country championships and the Olympic 10,000m.
'Nothing's changed, other than the fact that I have put more iron into my body,' she said afterwards. That such a simple procedure appears to have restored her must raise uncomfortable thoughts about what might have been in Barcelona.
Her remorseless progress here, however, put iron in the soul of the rest of the field. Having been among the front-runners for just over nine of the 13 miles, she put in a mile of 5min 01sec to shake off the lingering challenge of Rosanna Munerotto of Italy before finishing in 1hr 8min 53sec, four seconds outside the course record.
Despite the withdrawal of Jill Hunter because of Achilles tendon problems, the British women, with Andrea Wallace and Suzanne Rigg their two other scoring runners in 12th and 30th places respectively, won the team silver behind Japan.
The British trio of Dave Lewis, Paul Evans and Carl Thackery secured silver too in the men's race. The individual event was won by Benson Masya of Kenya, who also retained his Great North Run title, in a time of 1:00:24, a world best performance on a legitimate course. The Kenyans, as expected, won the team gold too, with four in the first six. But Antonio Silio, of Argentina, and Boay Akunay, who at one stage appeared on course for a sub-60 minute time, surprised everyone by taking second and third place respectively.
Silio, who was 18th in the Olympic 10,000m, used his track speed to good effect on the final mile along the seafront, causing Masya to look over his shoulder anxiously. But the Kenyan, who had overhauled Akunay in the 10th mile, had a sufficient margin to take the prize he had been predicting he would take all week.
Relief, rather than elation, was the predominant emotion for Masya immediately afterwards; as indeed it was for McColgan. 'This was the first race I've really tested myself in since Barcelona,' she said. 'It was unbelievable how bad I felt there, and it was important to me to get back to the old way of running again. I had no trouble with breathing, which means the problem has been sorted out. I pray it will never happen again.'
The only problem she had was keeping to the game-plan she had agreed with her husband and coach, Peter, of running conservatively until the last mile and a half. 'It was very uncomfortable for me to keep checking back,' she said. 'There was plenty in reserve.'
Her programme now consists of the Tokyo Marathon next month - all part of the gradual preparation over the distance she intends to run at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 - and then a month off. That is, off with no running. 'I'll be enjoying myself, letting my hair down,' she exclaimed in a burst of high spirits. Will she remember how to do it?
As McColgan stepped on to the podium by the finish line, she was applauded by the slow streams of runners from the estimated 30,000 field - now featuring the odd gorilla-mask and silly hat - still making their way down the official channels towards the North Sea and the promise of official T-shirts proclaiming their participation in a world championship event. It was a happy marriage of events. Brussels, the venue for next year's world half-marathon championships, has a hard act to follow.
IAAF/DIET COKE WORLD HALF-MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS (incorporating Great North Run between Newcastle and South Shields): MEN: Individual: 1 B Masya (Ken) 1hr 00min 24sec; 2 A Silio (Arg) 1:00.40; 3 B Akunay (Tan) 1:00.45; 4 L Aguta (Ken) 1:00.55; 5 P Tergat (Ken) 1:01.03; 6 J Keino (Ken) 1:01.06; 7 D Lewis (GB) 1:01.17. Selected: 11 P Evans (GB) 1:01.38; 17 C Thackery (GB) 1:01.59; 29 M Flint (GB) 1:02.29; 35 S Brace (GB) 1:02.38; 73 N Berkeley (Irl) 1:04:35; 77 R Dooney (Irl) 1:04:41; 96 S Cram (Jarrow) 1:05:33; 97 G Healy (Irl) 1:05:46; 109 T Maher (Irl) 1:06:22. Team: 1 Kenya (B Masya, L Aguta, J Keino) 3:02:25; 2 Great Britain (D Lewis, P Evans, C Thackery) 3:04:54; 3 Brazil (A Castro, R da Costa, D Dos Santos) 3:05.56. Selected: 16 Ireland (N Berkeley, R Dooney, G Healy) 3:15:02.
WOMEN: Individual: 1 L McColgan (GB) 1:08:53; 2 M Fujiwara (Japan) 1:09:21; 3 R Munerotto (It) 1:09:38; 4 A Catuna (Rom) 1:10:25; 5 M Asahina (Japan) 1:10:27; 6 F Roba (Eth) 1:10:28. Selected: 12 A Wallace 1:11:21 (GB); 30 S Rigg (GB) 1:12.50; 37 M Sutton (GB) 1:13.09; 47 U Noctor (Irl) 1:13.57. Team: 1 Japan (M Fujiwara, M Asahina, E Asai) 3:30:39; 2 Great Britain (L McColgan, A Wallace, S Rigg) 3:33:05; 3 Romania (A Catuna, I Negura, A Buia) 3:33:27.
Smith's record, page 27
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