IT WAS a case of fifth time lucky for Chris Thompson who finally tasted victory in the Great South Run on a day when triple Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba won on her 10-mile debut.
The 35-year-old Thompson had fallen short on his previous four attempts over the ten miles in Portsmouth, but used his experience of the course to spoil Andy Vernon's homecoming party and take his first victory on the South Coast in style.
Camberley's Thompson clocked 47.23 with Vernon, from nearby Fareham, finishing in 48.09. Matt Sharp was third over the line in 48.18.
While Thompson was made to wait for his win, it was instant success for Dibaba. The nine-time world champion cruised home to a maiden victory on the South Coast, sealing an Ethiopian one-two with Dibaba taking victory in 51.49, and compatriot Senbere Teferi more than a minute behind in 52.51.
Elizeba Cherono, who won last weekend's Great Birmingham Run half marathon, was third in 53.54. Lily Partridge was the first British female over the line in 54.41.
Thompson's win in the Great South Run came at the end of a mini-series of races where he took on the half marathon in the Great North Run and the Great Scottish Run, before finishing second to Vernon last week in the Great Birmingham Run.
The Olympian, who represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, became the first British male to win the world's leading 10-mile race since Mo Farah in 2009, and screamed ‘finally!” as he crossed the finish line.
Speaking of his battle with Vernon which stretched into its second week following their exploits in the Midlands, Thompson said: “I'm buzzing. It was a bit of cat and mouse at the start but once we got going Andy took it on after four miles – I thought ‘right, this is it – how much have I got left in the pegs' – he went and I thought I had to go with it.
“I wasn't here to run second, I wasn't here to run third, I thought if I go with this I could blow up very easily with all the racing I've done recently. But I had some oomph.
“I sensed a bit of weakness in him when he made the surge and I went for it, and tried to not look back. Somehow, I found four miles of blissful running that got me to the end, and I'm so ecstatic I found that.
“I've worked my socks off for the last two years and Im starting to see the fruits of those efforts. After the last couple of miles I thought I'd finish it off knowing that I've got a break afterwards. I'm over the moon.”
Thompson took his time to praise the weather in Portsmouth, with a rare easterly wind giving athletes a welcome tailwind for the final two miles.
He added: “The wind was swirling but it was behind me – I've ran this race and it has been still, or blown you into a standstill on the last two miles, but this is the first time it has been behind me.
“It made mile five to eight tough, and that's where I made my effort. I knew turning in that it was going to be different. It made it a new experience for us all. “In road racing if you know what's coming you can run a harder race, but not knowing can help make it a level playing field. I'll have more of that next year please.”
Vernon admitted that two consecutive weeks of racing may have taken its toll as he had no answer to Thompson posing the question on mile five, where he stretched clear of his Aldershot, Farnham and District AC teammate.
Vernon said: “It would have been nice to win this race but it wasn't to be unfortunately. I think that really would have helped me if I had won it, because it's such a big event.
“He ekes out a faster pace. I just wasn't feeling as fresh as I did last week, I guess. He made it tough at the right time, he kind of continued to grow the gap and I couldn't hold it at all.
“It was a tough part of the race, we were into the wind. It makes it fun, it makes it interesting. It gears us up for the next race, the next head to head. We've got one each now.”
Meanwhile for Dibaba, who won double gold in 2008 and retained her 10,000m title in 2012, her maiden outing over the rarely-raced 10-mile distance was an excellent experience as she focuses the next stage of her career on the roads, and in particular the marathon distance.
She said: “The race was a good one but it was a bit windy. I'm really happy with my performance after recovering from injury.
“Winning this race was important for me as it was my last race of the year, but overall I can say it was a good race.
“I'm satisfied with my time, if there was less wind I could have gone faster. I'll be very happy if it's a Ethiopian record.”
On the location, Dibaba added: “The city is beautiful. The shores, the boats, everything is beautiful about it. It was a very good experience to run in.”