The 32-year-old from Great Britain dominated the women’s race at the Carlsbad 5000.
Even in road racing, honesty is the best policy.
Not wanting fall victim to one of the devastating kicks of her middle-distance-minded rivals, Great Britain’s Julia Bleasdale pressed the pace just past the 2-mile mark of the Carlsbad 5000 on Sunday morning, extending her advantage with each stride the rest of the way to post a dominating 15:06 victory in the 29th edition of the World’s Fastest 5K.
“I just wanted it to be a good, honest hard race,” said Bleasdale, who ran 15:47 to finish fifth at Carlsbad in 2012. “One mile in I was surprised it was that fast. It felt pretty easy. After two miles I wanted to give it a bit of a go and see what I could do because I knew that there were some big kickers in the field and knew that I would be outkicked if they were still with me.”
Kenya Betsy Saina, who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., finished a distant second in 15:22. Ethiopia’s Etalemhu Habtewold took third in 15:23. World 800m bronze medalist Brenda Martinez was the top American finisher in fourth, running 15:25—a 19-second improvement on her fifth-place finish here last year.
A pack of seven hit hit the mile in 4:46, as Bleasdale asserted herself at the front of the pack from the get-go. Saina followed closely with Martinez and Jordan Hasay (7th, 15:41) firmly planted in the middle of the pack, seemingly ready to respond to any early moves. Reigning U.S. cross country champion Amy Van Alstine (5th, 15:30) sat quietly at the back of the lead pack heading into the first hairpin turn 2,000 meters into the race, running well ahead of her previous personal best pace of 15:36.
“The race felt really quick from the start but it was fun, a fast road 5K with a lot of girls in there and I was excited to compete with them,” Van Alstine said after the race. “I expected it to go out fast but it went a little faster than I thought and felt very quick so I was just trying to hold on the whole time.”
By the two-mile mark, reached in 9:38, Bleasdale and Saina had separated themselves from the rest of the field, with Martinez and Habtewold following a few strides behind. Hasay fell off the pace as Van Alstine moved into fifth, where she would remain the rest of the race. With a kilometer to go, Bleasdale was clear of everyone, opening up a 12-second lead heading into the final push toward the finish line in Carlsbad Village. The two-time Olympic finalist, who was injured most of last year, continued to keep her foot on the accelerator, breaking the tape with no one else in sight.
PHOTOS: 2014 Carlsbad 5000
“It’s a bit of a confidence boost that I can win a race and use my strength to compete against girls who have that big kick,” she said. “I’m working on my speed for the finish so I can do it both ways. It’s absolutely amazing. I haven’t won many races so to give it my all and come away with the top position is very special.”