African stars join in Great South Run 2012

Daily Echo: Competitors set off at a previous Portsmouth meeting Competitors set off at a previous Portsmouth meeting

OLYMPIC medallists Tariku Bekele and Abel Kirui will be aiming to continue African dominance at the world’s leading ten-mile running event in Hampshire later this month.

The Ethiopian and Kenyan stars, who won the 10,000m bronze and marathon silver medals at this summer’s London Olympics, will join a field of 25,000 runners in the IAAF Gold Label Great South Run meeting over 10 miles in Portsmouth on Sunday, October 28.

They will be serious contenders to continue the almost constant roll of victories achieved by runners from their continent, only interrupted since the first event at the south coast venue by Gary Staines’ triple successes in the 1990s, and Mo Farah’s superb win three years ago.

Bekele, the 27-year-old younger brother of the legendary Kenenisa, will bring a 10-mile personal best of 46:44 to the meeting, where Joseph Ebuya set the UK All-Comers’ record of 45:16 with his superb 2010 victory.

Significantly, however, the two-time Olympian clocked a very fast 15k mark time of 43:35 (9.3 miles) when winning last New Year’s Eve San Silvestre race in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“It was touch and go whether Bekele would compete after feeling a hamstring strain in the recent Lisbon Half Marathon, but he has been given medical clearance to come to Portsmouth,” said Peter Riley, the Bupa Great South Run elite athletes manager.

Kirui will return to Portsmouth where last year, on his international debut over the distance, he set a lifetime best of 46:40 when finishing runner-up behind Leonard Komen, rapidly closing his fellow Kenyan down in the second half of the race.

“Having won the last two World Championships titles then finishing second at the Olympic Games, he’s without a doubt the most consistent marathon runner about at the moment,” said Riley.

“He’s also a very capable performer over the shorter distance, and with knowledge of the course from last year he will again be a strong contender.”

Ireland’s Alistair Cragg will also be returning to a venue where, just one year ago, he produced one of the best performances of his career by finishing third and posting a pb of 47:14.

There promises to be an intriguing women’s head-to-head between Jo Pavey, the 2006 champion, and fellow Briton Claire Hallissey who, after a superb run in this year’s London Marathon, was picked ahead of Pavey to represent Team GB at the Olympic Games.

“Fortunately it’s a friendly rivalry, but once the pair start racing I’m sure it will be highly competitive,” said Riley.

“Jo committed herself to taking part shortly after the Games finished, while Claire pulled out of a recent high profile half marathon to concentrate on Portsmouth, which I’m sure is sending out the right message.”

Joining the pair of London Olympians will be Julia Bleasdale, who emerged from obscurity to make both the Games 5,000m and 10,000m finals, where she surpassed all expectations when finishing a solid eighth in both races.

“She’s never done a 10-miler before but I am sure, as Pavey did when making the transition from the track to serious road running, that she’ll make a great success of it and produce a quality performance,” added Riley.

  • The Bupa Great South Run weekend kicks off on Saturday, October 27, with the 5k, Junior and Mini events. Places are still available at greatrun.org/south

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