Half-marathon star Tadese ready for Birmingham return

Five-time world half-marathon champion Zersenay Tadese headlines this weekend’s Bupa Great Birmingham Run

Zersenay Tadese (Mark Shearman)

Now in its second year as part of the Nova family, the Bupa Great Birmingham Run continues to grow in stature. Not only will they be expecting 3000 more runners than last year (bringing the total to 18,000), but the UK’s second city will this weekend welcome the participation of the greatest half-marathon runner in history, Zersenay Tadese.

Earlier this month the Eritrean won a record fifth world half-marathon title, bringing his career tally to 13 victories out of 16 races over 13.1 miles. The 30-year-old is familiar with the streets of Birmingham, too, as it was here that he won the World Half title in 2009 with a time of 59:35.

That time may be 72 seconds shy of his own world record, but it’s significantly quicker than the Bupa Great Birmingham Run course record of 61:29 set by Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie last year.

If conditions are good, that course record could well be history, especially as Tadese faces tough opposition in the form of Kenyan duo Micah Kogo and Eliud Kipchoge.

Kogo, the 2008 Olympic 10,000m medallist, smashed his half-marathon PB with 59:07 at the Bupa Great North Run last month to finish a close second to London Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang.

Kipchoge, the 2003 world 5000m champion, only made his half-marathon debut in September, but clocked an impressive 59:25 before finishing a respectable sixth at the World Half.

Also entered are world 5000m fifth-placer Abera Kuma of Ethiopia, Commonwealth marathon champion John Kelai and French record-holder Abdellatif Meftah. The British entries are led by 2010 European and Commomwealth representative Martin Williams and Tomas Abyu, who has competed in two full marathons already this month.

Two-time European 5000m bronze medallist Sara Moreira is the marginal favourite in the women’s race. The 27-year-old from Portugal won in Duoro earlier this year with a season’s best of 70:55, just 47 seconds shy of her lifetime best. Just two weeks ago she finished second in Ovar with 71:35.

Moreira’s toughest opposition could come from 21-year-old Hannah Walker, who made an impressive debut over the distance at the recent Bristol Half, clocking 71:50. Afterwards Walker said she felt there was more in the bag, so if all goes well she could get close to Liz McColgan’s UK under-23 best of 70:59.

Also in the field are Commonwealth marathon silver medallist Irene Mogaka and Ethiopia’s 2003 world 10,000m champion Berhane Adere, who at 39 is no longer the force she once was and only just dipped under 75 minutes for the half last year.

» The Bupa Great Birmingham Run is being televised live on Channel 5 at 10am.

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