Team USA notched a pair of important victories at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country Meet on Saturday, January 11, as Garrett Heath and Chris Derrick won the 4K and 8K races, respectively.
Runners enjoyed “perfect sunny conditions,” as the IAAF reports, but photos show that Heath was splattered with mud as he crossed the finish line one second ahead of Ethiopia’s Meresa Kahsay, who finished in second.
Neither Heath nor Kashay had been favored, and the anticipated duel between Kenya’s Asbel Kisrop and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele never panned out. The former made a strong showing, but Bekele is prepping for the Paris Marathon, and as a result of his training regimen—up to 240 kimometers (about 150 miles) per week—he “lacked some speed,” according to the IAAF.
Kiprop went out with the lead pack, and with 800 meters to go he seemed destined to break the tape. He was bracing for a challenge—just not the one he got.
“I was looking for Bekele because I expected him to attack,” Kiprop said after the race. “So I was surprised that it did not happen.”
Instead, Heath came roaring past with 250 meters left, and he held on for a narrow win, crossing in 11:51. Kahsay followed in 11:52, forcing Kiprop to settle for third place in 11:58.
“I just put my head down, sprinting and hoping that nobody would come past me,” Heath said, according to the IAAF. “This is of course a great start to the new year and it will give me confidence.”
There was no dramatic kick at the end of Derrick’s race, as the 23-year-old grabbed the lead before the halfway point and cruised to a comfortable victory. The U.S. cross-country champ finished in 24:11, beating runner-up Andy Vernon of host Great Britain by a full 10 seconds. Taking third in the race—a three-team event that pitted the United States against Great Britain and Europe and notably featured no African runners—was Bashir Abdi of Belgium, who clocked in at 24:27.
“I felt very good and just tried to keep my rhythm,” Derrick said, “knowing that I could still push at the end.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg