Brett Robinson wins his second Zatopek crown
Brett Robinson proved his class yet again last night, with a commanding victory in the Zatopek:10.
Despite winning this race back in 2014, making an Olympic final in the 5,000m, running a 2:10:55 marathon in London 2019, and even breaking the Australian half marathon record in 2020 (59:57), Robinson seems to attract his share of doubters. Yet time and time again, he proves them wrong. One thing we know about him is his courage - he's prepared to take big swings and back his ability. Sometimes he misses - a couple of DNF's in marathons, but sometimes (like last night) he knocks it out of the park.
Here's how it went down.
Steepler Ben Buckingham was solely charged with pacing responsibilities last night - asked to take the front pack through halfway on 28:00 pace. Speaking to 'Bucks' before the race, he was optimistic but maybe not certain of the pace. "I know physically I've done it once before, so my body can do it."
In a race that was largely billed as a head-to-head between friends and training partners Jack Rayner and Brett Robinson, the interest lay in seeing where any moves would be made, and what fireworks we could expect after Buckingham exited the race.
The first couple of km of the race were impressive but uneventful (try holding 14:00 5k pace!). Predictably, behind Robinson and Rayner sat Dave McNeill, Ed Goddard, and Sam McEntee, with a train of others behind them.
For the last km or so that Buckingham paced, each time the athletes passed me I could hear Robinson talking to the pacer, trying to keep him focused and making sure he got through to halfway. Variations of "perfect", "yep hold this Bucks" could be heard if you were lucky enough to be inside the rail.
Once Buckingham stepped off, the race almost immediately strung out. Robinson continued on with Rayner, McNeill, and Goddard behind, but McEntee began to falter, and behind him the race had fractured.
By 6,000m Robinson had opened up a small gap on Rayner that would only grow. It was a race in two, with McNeill and Goddard already in a battle for 3rd.
There's truly not a lot to say about the rest of the race. With each lap, Robinson held off any challenge, slowly but surely increasing his lead metre by metre.
Behind him, Rayner was as safe in 2nd as Robinson was in 1st, with Dave McNeill and Ed Goddard still fighting their own battle for the final place on the podium.
The only question left was how fast the time would be. After going through 5000m in 14:00.00, all eyes were on a sub 28 time. With no one to push him, Robinson needed a 65 second final lap to go under 28, and came agonisingly close - 28:00.25, from Rayner in 28:13.42, and McNeill in 28:16.86.
For Robinson, he must now have one eye on a spot in the 10,000m in Tokyo if he can find the right race - a challenge domestically, and something that he and coach Nic Bideau will now have to figure out.