BRAVE Briton Gemma Steel admitted her anguish after falling agonisingly short of winning the Bupa Great South Run in its 25th anniversary year.
Steel by name, steely by nature – a memorable home victory looked on the cards as the 28-year-old led the world’s premier 10-mile event heading into the final straight.
But Ethiopian Belaynesh Oljira had other ideas and mounted a late sprint finish to claim glory in a time of 52min 40sec – two seconds ahead of Steel.
Having claimed a runner-up spot in last month’s half-marathon Great North Run, Steel had been hoping to go one better in the south coast’s shortened format.
But having set the pace for the majority of the race, she was again frustrated to miss out on the gold medal, despite recording a personal best.
Steel said: ‘I did all the work and felt like I deserved the win – it’s gutting really.
‘It’s a personal best and I am sure I will look back on it with personal pride in the near future.
‘But it’s just one of those days and hopefully in time I’ll get my revenge.
‘I’ve had races in the past when I’ve stolen a win from someone and this time the shoe is on the other foot.’
In what turned out to be a tactical race, Oljira was content to sit on the shoulder and allow Steel to do the work before picking her time to attack.
Knowing about it and stopping it are two very different things, though, and Steel conceded that when she comes to look back on the result she may view things very differently – in light of her opponent’s proven calibre.
She said: ‘I knew I had to push the pace to try to get away early – rather than rely on a sprint finish.
‘But with her being a track runner – she has got some credentials there having won a World Championship bronze medal in the 10,000m (Moscow, 2013).
‘When I look back and think who she is and what she has achieved, I might think differently about the day and appreciate my own achievement more.’
Steel reserved praise for a partisan Portsmouth crowd, despite the fact the race evoked memories of another recent near miss.
She said: ‘I knew everyone was rooting for me and I just had to dig in.
‘I raced in Falmouth earlier this season and there was a similar feeling there.
‘I raced against a girl – Kenya’s Betsy Saina who is the world leader for 10k – and she outsprinted me as well.
‘I just thought it’s history repeating itself again on the seafront.’
Down-to-earth Steel also joked she did not know how to react to the adulation before outlining her plans for the future.
She added: ‘I still think of myself as the same normal person I have always been.
‘But the way people were cheering for me, it was like I was Mo Farah – that was quite nice.
‘I’ll now review my plans with my coach but I might focus more on the European Cross Country Championships in Bulgaria in December.
‘Yesterday I lost the battle but it’s about trying to win the war and success on that front would more than make up for the disappointment.’
Triumphant Oljira said: ‘I am a track runner for 10,000m, so I have a good sprint finish, which was good for me.
‘I appreciate the crowd – thank you very much.’