Athletics: Remorseless Murray in mint condition

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LIZ McCOLGAN, who has spent the last month training at altitude in Albuquerque, came back down to earth with a bump in yesterday's 5km road race here.

The runner who beat - and bumped her - was her old rival Yvonne Murray, who ran intently at the world half-marathon champion's shoulder for 4,000 metres of the winding, beech-lined course around Duthie Park before bursting away to win in 15min 20sec, the fastest legal time for the distance in the world this year.

It was a victory which boded marvellously well for Murray's ambitions in the 3,000m this season, and even more so for her long-term aim of moving up to 10,000m for the 1996 Olympics.

But McColgan, who appeared to have her progress checked by Murray on several occasions, was definitely not amused. 'It was ridiculous,' she said. 'She knows it annoys me, and I suppose that is an advantage to her.'

Murray, who has been training in the less exalted regions of Musselburgh, near Edinburgh since winning the world indoor 3,000m title, saw things slightly differently. 'We kept bumping into one another, but that's inevitable if two runners go for the shortest route on a winding course,' she said. 'We have come up through the ranks together and we are both gutsy Scots.'

Murray has been perceived as a softer person than McColgan in the past. But her competitive approach to yesterday's race was pragmatic to the point of ruthlessness.

When she accelerated into the final lap, having let McColgan lead into the wind for 4,000m, she gained 80m in eight seconds.

For McColgan, who has taken on Kim McDonald as her coach in the wake of her disappointing third place in the London Marathon, defeat was a disappointment rather than a disaster; she felt she had probably asked too much of herself in returning from New Mexico only on Wednesday.

But the competitiveness of Murray clearly rankled. 'It will be different on the track,' she said. And what if Murray attempted to crowd her there in the same way? 'I've got elbows,' she replied darkly.

Steve Cram's hopes of establishing his credentials as a 5,000m runner were frustrated by a twinge in his left calf which reduced him to jogging pace 500m from the end of the men's 5km race. At that stage, the world mile record holder was third behind Paul Evans, making an ebullient return to form in the public eye after his London Marathon performance had been undermined by a viral infection, and Khalid Skah.

By the time Morocco's Olympic 10,000m champion powered over the line in 13min 39sec, having led virtually from the start, Cram was slipping back to an eventual 12th place. Evans, who has half an eye on running the 10,000m at this year's world championships even though he has already been picked for the marathon, held on well for second place in 13.58.

Cram, who is looking on this year as a time when he can get used to his new event before seeking medals at next year's European or Commomwealth championships, was not unduly put out afterwards. 'It's going to mean one or two days disruption to my training,' he said. 'I'm not that chewed up about it.' The men's mile - the third main event in the BUPA Festival of Road Running - was won in 4min 4sec by Curtis Robb, although he was not the first runner through the tape. Benson Koech of Kenya, appeared to have won by 50m, but was disqualified for unwittingly taking a short cut which gained him roughly that margin of lead.

Koech, running his first road race in this country, was alongside Robb in the lead when he followed the BBC camera buggy as it took the short way round a roundabout in order to remain comfortably ahead of the field. A member of the BBC production team had moved the bollards which had been placed to cut off the shorter route.

It was unfortunate for Koech, who, according to Robb, had appeared uncertain about where the start line was. Race organisers ruled that it was his responsibility to know the course.

BUPA INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF RUNNING (Duthie Park, Aberdeen) Men's mile: 1 C Robb (GB) 4min 4sec; 2 J Mayock (GB) 4:06; 3 R Denmark (GB) 4:07; 4 S Fairbrother (GB) 4:08; 5 M Barnes (GB) 4:09; 6 R Whalley (GB) 4:10. 5000m: 1 K Skah (Mor) 13min 39sec; 2 P Evans (GB) 13:58; 3 P Dugdale (GB) 14:02; 4 H Makambo (Kenya) 14:04; 5 M Jones (GB) 14:07; 6 J Nuttall (GB) 14:11. Selected: 12 S Cram (GB) 14:37.

Women's 5000m: 1 Y Murray (GB) 15min 20sec; 2 L McColgan (GB) 15.31; 3 C McKiernan (Irl) 15.57; 4 J O'Moro (Ken) 16.02; 5 K McCandless (US) 16.14; 6 V McPherson (GB) 16.21.

(Photograph omitted)