The last time Kelly Holmes raced against Jolanda Ceplak, in the European Championships 800m final in Munich in August, the former Army judo champion left the Olypiastadion muttering darkly about having achieved her bronze medal "cleanly", leaving behind the inference that her Slovenian rival might have struck gold by less pristine means.
Their rematch in the Bupa Women's Great North Mile by the banks of the Tyne yesterday was won by the cleanest of breaks. It was Holmes who made it, surging ahead as she approached the Swing Bridge, leading from Gateshead across to the finishing straight on Newcastle Quayside.
It took the Commonwealth 1,500m champion decisively clear of Sureyya Ayhan, the Turk who won the 1,500m title in Munich and whose last defeat dated back 14 months to the World Championships 1,500m final in Edmonton. Holmes crossed the finish line in 4min 32.1sec, slicing a mighty 7.9sec off her own course record. Ayhan finished second in 4:34.4sec, with Ceplak among the ranks of the also-rans, back in ninth place in 4:58.90.
"It's fantastic to end the season like this," Holmes said. "I've struggled with my motivation a bit this year but this will help to bring the enjoyment back."
It certainly helped to get Great North Run weekend off to a flying start, ahead of today's main race. The half-marathon has come to be dominated by Kenyans over its 21 years. The last British man to win was, in fact, a Kenyon – Steve Kenyon, a ceramic tile salesman from Bolton.