Mo Farah hopes to become first British men’s winner since 1985, while strong women’s field includes Tirunesh Dibaba and Edna Kiplagat
Tirunesh Dibaba, Edna Kiplagat, Mo Farah and Tariku Bekele are among those who will race in a historic Bupa Great North Run on Sunday.
This year’s half-marathon will see the number of runners to have crossed the finish line at South Shields in the event’s 33-year history break the one million mark.
Forming part of the 57,000-strong field is an elite women’s entry which has attracted a competitive line-up and Ethiopia’s world and Olympic track champion Dibaba will look to reclaim the title she won in 2012 when she beat Kenya’s Kiplagat in a sprint finish.
Kiplagat turned the tables on Dibaba in London in April, though, as she claimed marathon victory ahead of her namesake Florence Kiplagat, with five-time world and three-time Olympic track gold medallist Dibaba finishing third in 2:20:35 to become the third fastest-ever female marathon debutante.
Kiplagat’s fellow Kenyan and former London Marathon winner Mary Keitany will also be a big threat. Former world record-holder for the half-marathon with 65:50, Keitany also has a 2:18:37 marathon best to her name clocked when winning in London in April 2012. Kiplagat’s PB for 13.1 miles is 68:48 from 2013, while Dibaba’s half-marathon best is 66:56 recorded on a downhill point-to-point course.
Then there is Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana, the Olympic marathon champion who has a half-marathon PB of 67:48 clocked when finishing third behind Dibaba in 2012.
Britain’s Gemma Steel is another athlete in great shape, having run a 31:27 road 10km recently. Her PB of 70:19 was run on the undulating Bupa Great Birmingham Run course last year and that was 27 seconds quicker than she ran when finishing seventh in the Great North in 2012. Domestically Susan Partridge will be among the top contenders. She finished sixth in the Commonwealth Games marathon and has a PB of 70:31. Other British runners on the elite list include Sonia Samuels, Charlotte Purdue and Alyson Dixon, while Shelly Woods and Jade Jones head the wheelchair entries.
In the men’s race, Farah will be looking to become the first British men’s winner since 1985. He had hoped to achieve the feat last year but was beaten in a sprint finish by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele and clocked 60:10 for the runner-up spot.
After finishing eighth on his marathon debut in London in April, the double world and Olympic track champion had his summer plans interrupted by illness and was forced to withdraw from the 5000m and 10,000m – the distances over which he won his Olympic and world titles – at the Commonwealth Games. He returned to again do the double at the European Championships in Zurich and since then has run a British two-mile record in Birmingham.
“I like running the half marathon,” said Farah. “My first was in New York in 2011, which I won. I enjoyed making my debut in the Bupa Great North Run last year. It was a great race, between Kenenisa, Haile Gebrselassie and myself, but I just didn’t have quite enough.
“This time I want to win it,” he added. “The Bupa Great North Run is a big race and it would be nice to have a win in it. It will be my last race before I start getting ready for next year.”
The half-marathon PB of Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich – 61:15 from last year – shows he is a threat, however, aside from victory in the Bupa Great North 10km in 29:39 in July, 2014 hasn’t been the best for him. Tariku Bekele could offer more of a challenge, despite the Ethiopian only having three half-marathons to his name and a PB of 62:59.
The quickest in the field is Kenya’s Mike Kigen, who ran 59:58 in 2011. Kenya’s Mark Kiptoo could also be a threat and has a 2011 60:29 PB.
Andy Vernon, at the end of the best season of his career, returns to the half-marathon for the first time since 2011 and will be expected to improve on the 64:43 he recorded in 2010. Other leading British entries include England Commonwealth 10,000m representative Jonny Mellor, Luke Caldwell and Jonny Hay, while Simon Lawson contests the wheelchair event.
» The September 11 edition of Athletics Weekly will include in-depth coverage of the Bupa Great North Run as well as Saturday’s PUMA Great North CityGames. See the September 4 AW for previews as well as last-minute tips for runners