Ethiopian born Birhanu Balew won the men's race today at the IAAF Cross Country Permit meet in Antrim ©Getty Images

Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew and Ethiopia’s Meskerem Mamo won the men’s and women’s races respectively today at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Cross Country Permit event in Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Ethiopian born Balew, who won the 2018 Asian Games 5,000 metres title in Jakarta last year, triumphed in the men’s race in 29min 42sec ahead of Keyna’s Richard Yator and Ethiopia’s Chala Beyom, second and third respectively.

Nineteen-year-old Mamo emerged victorious in the women’s race in front of compatriot Hawi Feysa, with pre-race favourite Pauline Kamulu of Kenya finishing third.

Ireland’s two-time race winner Fionnuala McCormack, who made her return to racing today after becoming a mother, finished in sixth, a minute and 14 seconds behind Mamo.

Mamo, Freysa and Kamulu broke away from the rest of the field before the halfway mark, sticking together until the final lap.

At that point Kamula, who ran the world’s fastest 10,000m time on the track last year, slipped behind the others.

Meskerem Mamo, centre, edged ahead of her compatriot Hawi Feysa to win the women's race ©Getty Images
Meskerem Mamo, centre, edged ahead of her compatriot Hawi Feysa to win the women's race ©Getty Images

Mamo reached the finish line a metre ahead of Freysa, though they were both credited with the same time of 29:10.

Kamulu crossed over three seconds behind.

The next stage of the IAAF Permit series goes ahead tomorrow near Seville in Spain.

Uganda’s pair of Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo will face off in the men’s race, with Kiplimo unbeaten so far this winter season.

On the women’s side another Ugandan, reigning Commonwealth 10,000m champion Stella Chesang, is considered the one to watch.

The 22-year-old finished second in Elgoibar last Sunday (January 13), with her toughest opponent expected to be Kenya’s current world 3,000 steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech.