reports from Portsmouth
Britain's Commonwealth 10,000 metres champions, Rob Denmark and Yvonne Murray, ran their early season form up the flagpole at the Royal Naval Dockyard here on Saturday. It was worthy of salute.
On the looped course which staged the Bupa international road races, Denmark's defeat of the world cross country champion, Paul Tergat, and Murray's second place behind Ethiopia's Olympic 10,000m champion, Derartu Tulu, over 5km provided each with a useful point of reference for a summer which will see both challenging for world titles.
The nearby presence of HMS Victory brought to mind images of Nelson and "England Expects". However, any expectation aroused of Denmark running in next month's European Cup in France is misplaced, as he sees his duty in broader terms.
Denmark's main aim is to do well in this summer's World Championships, and the early challenge of the European Cup does not fit in. He blamed his disappointing showing in the 1993 World Championships on the efforts he had made two months earlier in winning the European Cup 10,000m title in Rome.
Having secured European silver and Commonwealth gold last season after preparing more gradually, he is not about to jeopardise his efforts for 1995. His immediate concern is to prepare for a paced head-to-head meeting in Nuremburg next month with Germany's Olympic 5,000m champion, Dieter Baumann.
The 5,000m place in Lille could well go to John Nuttall, who finished third behind Denmark and Tergat. Denmark conceded that he had been helped by the fact that Tergat had slipped and fallen shortly before the 2km mark. But he felt in control throughout: "I've had some bloody awful tactical races in the past," he said. "But I really sussed this out. I knew exactly what was going to happen. It's fairly important when you beat guys like these because not many people do and it gets you noticed."
Denmark's shoulder-to-shoulder race with Kenya's world 5000m champion, Ismail Kirui, at the equivalent event last year in Aberdeen helped him approach last summer's championships with renewed confidence. Saturday's race will have done nothing to diminish that.
Murray plans to fill the European Cup place at 5,000m, a distance at which she has not raced since she won the UK title in 1983. She had wanted to make her first race in eight months a meaningful one - and it was, as Tulu, in their first meeting, showed all the confidence which brought her the world cross country title in Durham two months ago.
"It's one thing watching Derartu on TV. It's another thing running alongside and getting the feeling of her strength," Murray said. "There is always that mystique when you haven't run against someone."
Although Murray fancied her chances if it came to a sprint finish - she knew that she had superior recorded times over a series of shorter distances - she lost contact with the Ethiopian as both runners made the final sharp turn on the looped course.Reuse content