Three of the greatest distance runners of all time will go head to head in the Bupa Great North Run this Sunday. GB & NI’s double Olympic and three-time world champion Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar) will be joined in the half marathon event by 40 year old Haile Gebrselassie, who has two Olympic titles and four World Championship gold medals to his name, as well as fellow Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the three-time Olympic champion and five time world-champion.
Although Farah has won major half marathons in New York and New Orleans, Gebrselassie is by far the quickest of the three with a personal best of 58:55 and was victorious in the North East back in 2010. Bekele meanwhile will be making his debut over the distance and will be hoping he can transfer his track form over 5,000m and 10,000m, events in which he holds the world records, onto the road.
Farah is looking forward to the challenge of facing the Ethiopian duo, he said: "It should be a great race; it’s very exciting and I’m definitely looking forward to it. In terms of the field you can’t get any better than this. Kenenisa has achieved great things and so has Haile with his world records and titles so if you put all of our titles together there’s a world record.
"I’ve got the track speed but it just all depends on how the race goes, the most important thing is not about time it’s putting on a great show."
2010 champion Gebrselassie is hoping for a repeat of that performance this time around: "It’s a very unique and different race this weekend, everybody wants to see a wonderful moment. In 2010 I ran well here and Sunday is going to be another one. I am well prepared and on Sunday we will see."
Ahead of his first half marathon, Bekele said: "This is the first time I’ll run a half marathon and after injury is difficult to come back. It will be a very strong race; Gebrselassie is very experienced over half marathon and marathon and Mo Farah is in great shape. To run with those great athletes will be very tough."
A strong British contingent in the men’s race consists of Jonny Mellor (Dave Evans) and Ryan McCleod (John Nuttall) and Jonny Hay (Mick Woods).
In the women’s race, two Ethiopians that have dominated women’s distance running in recent years will clash once again. Last year’s Great North Run winner Tirunesh Dibaba, who won the world 10,000m title in Moscow last month to add to four previous world titles as well as three Olympic gold medals, will face 5,000m world and Olympic champion Meseret Defar.
There is just ten seconds between the great rivals over the half marathon distance with Defar boasting a personal best of 67:25 compared to Dibaba’s 67:35. However, the fastest athlete in the field is Kenya’s Prisca Jeptoo with the Olympic marathon silver medallist having ran a best time of 66:11 this year, the third fastest ever by a woman.
The British charge will be led by Gemma Steel (Nuttall), who finished seventh at the World Half Marathon Championships last year and has a personal best of 70:46.
On the previous day, some of the best track and field athletes in the world will take to the streets of the Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside for the Great North City Games.
World and Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop is the standout name in a men’s one mile race that also includes Olympic silver medallist Leo Manzano of the USA. GB & NI’s three top 800m runners, Andrew Osagie (Craig Winrow), Michael Rimmer (Norman Poole) and Mukhtar Mohammed (Mustafa Mohammed), also compete over a mile while 17 year old World Youth 800m bronze medallist Kyle Langford (George Harrison) steps up to face a strong senior field.
There will be a strong British contingent in the women’s one mile race headed by Hannah England (Bud Baldaro), who finished fourth at the World Championships in Moscow this summer after winning silver in Daegu two years ago. She is joined by steeplechaser Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan), Olympian Laura Weightman (Steve Cram) and 2009 world 800m bronze medallist Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter), who will compete for the first time after a long injury layoff.
Former world and Commonwealth 100m champion Kim Collins lines up against Mike Rodgers of the USA and GB & NI’s Chris Clarke (Steve Fudge) and James Ellington (Reider) in the men’s 150m while world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan) drops down in distance to line up in the women’s equivalent. The British record holder is likely to face a stern test from Aleen Bailey, a member of Jamaica’s 2009 World Championship winning 4x100m relay team.
GB & NI’s William Sharman (Jerzy Maciukiewicz), who finished fifth in Moscow, will be part of a world-class 110m hurdles field. Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt is one of three Americans in the race, the others being the top two from the recent World Championships; David Oliver and Ryan Wilson.
In the women’s 100m hurdles, GB & NI’s World Championship bronze medallist Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider) will take on the top three from the London 2012 Olympics in the form of champion Sally Pearson, runner-up Dawn Harper-Nelson and bronze medallist Kellie Wells.
James Dasaolu (Fudge), who ran the second fastest 100m ever by a British man with a time of 9.91 at the Sainsbury’s British Championships in July, is the pick of the Brits in the men’s 100m as Dwain Chambers (Reider) and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Reider) line up alongside Dasaolu and Ryan Bailey of the USA. The women’s 100m will be an all-British affair consisting of Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie), Ashleigh Nelson (Michael Afilaka) and Bianca Williams (Cowan).
Triple jump specialist Christian Taylor of the USA leads the long jump field against joint British record holder Chris Tomlinson (Reider) as well as J J Jegede (Peter Stanley). Germany’s world championship bronze medallist and Olympic silver medallist Bjorn Otto will start as the favourite in the pole vault with British representation coming from Luke Cutts (Trevor Fox).
London 2012 Paralympic hero Jonnie Peacock (Fudge) will renew his rivalry with the USA’s Richard Browne over 100m. Peacock, who won T44 100m Paralympic gold in London and added IPC World Championship gold in Lyon in July, will hope to hold off the charge of the Paralympic silver medallist once again in Newcastle.