MO TARGETS FIRST BUPA GREAT NORTH RUN VICTORY
Mo Farah will be out to claim a landmark achievement of his own when he joins the 57,000 strong field in the historic Bupa Great North Run on Sunday.
The 2014 staging of the worlds biggest half marathon is guaranteed to be a momentous occasion, with the tally of runners who have crossed the finish line at South Shields in the 33 year history of the event set to break the one million mark.
Farah wants to make it a doubly special occasion by becoming the first British men’s winner of the prestigious IAAF Gold Label event for 29 years. He was aged just two years and three months when Steve Kenyon of Salford Harriers won the 1985 race, beating local favourite Mike McLeod.
Farah had hoped to end the home drought last year but was beaten in a thriller of a sprint finish along the sea front at South Shields by Kenenisa Bekele, the Ethiopian who holds the world records for 5,000m and 10,000m.
“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. 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.”
Farah has not had the best of times in 2014 – finishing a disappointing eighth on his marathon debut in London in April and missing the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow because of illness – but last month he added European 5,000m and 10,000m golds to the Olympic and World Championship doubles he achieved in 2012 and 2013. And in August in Birmingham he removed Steve Ovett’s name from the British record books with an impressive 8min 07.85sec clocking for two miles in Birmingham.
The form book suggests that, if successful, the 31-year-old Londoner will become only the third British men’s winner of the Bupa Great North Run – after McLeod, who triumphed in the first two, in 1981 and 1982, and Kenyon, the 1985 champion.
The field also includes Stephen Kiprotich, the reigning Olympic and world marathon champion, but the 35-year-old Ugandan has not been at his best this year. He finished 12th in the London marathon in April, three minutes and 16 seconds behind Farah.
He did win the Bupa Great North 10k on Tyneside in July, clocking 29min 39sec, but Farah might face more potent threats in Tariku Bekele, the Ethiopian who took Olympic 10,000m bronze behind him (and brother of Kenenisa) and Kenyan Mark Kiptoo, who has a half marathon best of 60:29.
Farah has two wins and two second places to his name in half marathon races. He won the 2011 New York race in 60:23 and the 2013 New Orleans Rock and Roll event in 60:59. In last year’s Bupa Great North Run he clocked 60:10, finishing just a second down on Kenenisa Bekele. In this year’s New York race, in March, he finished second to Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai in 61:07.
Further British interest in the elite men’s field will be provided by the presence of Andy Vernon. The 28-year-old Aldershot athlete was a man inspired in Zurich, taking European 10,000m silver and 5,000m bronze behind Farah. His target on Sunday will be to subject his lifetime best to some serious revision.
Vernon has only tackled the 13.1 mile half marathon distance twice before. He finished 20th in the 2011 Bupa Great North Run, clocking 65 min 45 sec, but his personal best dates back to 2010, when he finished third in the Bristol Half Marathon in 64 min 43 sec.
“My half marathon record is not very good,” he conceded. “It’s probably the worst PB that I’ve got. It definitely needs some revising.”
The elite women’s field brings together East African rivals Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia and Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. The pair fought a gripping duel in the 2012 Bupa Great North Run, Dibaba prevailing in a sprint finish, but Kiplagat turned the tables in this year’s London Marathon.
Both women have heavyweight distance running credentials. Dibaba holds the world and Olympic 10,000m crowns. Kiplagat is the reigning world marathon champion, having become the first back to back winner of the 26.2 mile event when she successfully defended her crown in Moscow last summer.
The 34-year-old Kenyan is also the reigning London Marathon champion. After Dibaba dropped a bottle at the 30k drinks station in April, Kiplagat pulled clear with her compatriot and namesake, Florence Kiplagat, and proceeded to win in a sprint finish on The Mall. Dibaba had to settle for third place in her debut marathon but returned to winning ways in the Bupa Great Manchester Run 10k race in May.
The elite women’s field also includes Mary Keitany, the 32-year-old Kenyan who won the London Marathon in 2011 and 2012 and stands third on the world all-time list for the marathon. Only Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Liliya Shobukhova of Russia have run faster than the 2 hours 18 minutes 38 seconds that Keitany clocked in the 2012 London race.
Keitany is also a former world record holder for the half marathon. The 1 hour 05 minutes 50 seconds that she recorded for 13.1 miles in the Ras Al Khaimah event in the United Arab Emirates in February 2011 stood until February of this year, when Florence Kiplagat clocked 1:05:12 in Barcelona.
The Bupa Great North Run is brought to you by Nova International and is sponsored by Bupa. Nova International, headed by Olympic medallist Brendan Foster also organise some of the biggest running events in the world, all based on the Bupa Great North Run, the world’s leading half marathon with 57,000 entries in 2014. Nova International was established in 1988 and ha
s a strong sporting pedigree. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, Nova has established itself as a market leader in the world of sports marketing and event management.www.greatrun.org
Bupa is a leading international healthcare group with over 22m customers in 190 countries. This year Bupa’s ‘Your First Step’ campaign will be inspiring people of all ages to take their first step towards a healthier and happier lifestyle. For more information on how Bupa can help you prepare for a running challenge visit: www.bupa.co.uk/running.
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