Preview Birmingham, UK

World champion Tadese faces tough challenge in Birmingham - PREVIEW

World Road Running title No. 5 for Zersenay Tadese (Getty Images)World Road Running title No. 5 for Zersenay Tadese (Getty Images) © Copyright
Zersenay Tadese will return to the city where he scored the fourth of his five IAAF World Half Marathon Championships victories when competing at the Bupa Great Birmingham Run on Sunday (21).

The Eritrean only a fortnight after notching up his latest global title with a runaway win in Kavarna, Bulgaria, will start favourite although he can expect Kenyan rivals Micah Kogo and Eliud Kipchoge to mount a stern test over the 13.1 miles distance.

The presence and ability of the African trio will almost certainly see a sub one hour performance achieved and the UK All-Comers’ record of 59:35 which Tadese ran when winning the World title three years ago looks likely to be rewritten.

It also seems inevitable in this IAAF Bronze Label Road Race with 18,000 runners which will be televised live by Channel 5 (10hrs to midday GMT+1), that Haile Gebrselassie's 12-month-old course record of 1:01:29 will be significantly lowered.

Indeed given the intensive rivalry of the trio, the fastest ever performance on British soil on the slightly downhill Bupa Great North Run course of 58:56 which Martin Mathathi set last year could be seriously threatened.

"It is only two weeks after I ran in the World Championships and I am still a little bit tired," said Tadese, a former World Cross Country champion and Olympic Games 10,000 metres bronze medallist.

"I don't know what to expect but they are two very good runners. I will try my very best to break the records. But the weather will be very important."

Tadese who has eight times in his career reached under the milestone one hour marker holds the World record of 58:23 which he posted in Lisbon two years ago, while his 2012 fastest is 59:34 which he also ran in the Portuguese capital.

Now having defeated the world’s best he arrived in Birmingham on Thursday night (19). Even after a lengthy delay at immigration there was a spring in his stride.

On what is expected to be misty Sunday morning with a temperature approaching 15 degrees, if reproducing the natural front running tactics which claimed him victory in Kavarna, he will be the man to beat.

However, Kogo like Tadese a past Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist and former World 10 kilometres record holder, showed with his display in last month’s Bupa Great North Run he has successfully made the transition to the longer distance.

Kogo in one of the closest ever Great North Run finishes lost out by only a couple of strides to fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang but came away from the Tyneside venue with a very impressive personal best time of 59:07.

Kipchoge, one of the World’s finest ever track distance runners including winning the 2003 World Championships 5000m gold medal in Paris, decided after failing to make the Kenyan team for the London Olympics to switch to a road running career.

It began with a highly encouraging third place in last month’s Lille Half Marathon where he recorded on his debut over the distance a very respectable time of 59:25. He struggled at the World Championships when suffering in the heat and humidity finishing outside the medals, but is determined to bounce back.

**UPDATE 20 OCT - Former World 5000 metres champion Eliud Kipchoge has withdrawn because of illness **

Abera Kuma, fifth in last year’s World Championships 5000m final, will make his half marathon debut, while Abdellatif Meftah the French record holder over the distance with a time of 60:46 leads the European challenge along with seasoned British international Tomas Abyu.

Japan's Yusei Nakao who achieved a top six finish at the 2008 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and Kenya's reigning Commonwealth Marathon gold medallist John Kelai will also line up.

WOMEN

Former World Half Marathon champion Berhane Adere is the undisputed favourite for the women's title and holding a personal best of 1:07:32 which won her the 2003 Bupa Great North Run, is much faster than her rivals.

However, the highly experienced Portuguese star Sara Moreira, who has recorded 1:10:08, is a very determined performer and will give the Ethiopian a run for her money at a venue which saw Gemma Steel clock the course record of 1:12:20 in last year's race.

Commonwealth Marathon silver medallist Irene Mogake of Kenya will also be in action and has a PB of 1:11:13, while Hannah Walker, third in the recent Bristol half marathon, will be looking to lower her fastest ever time of 1:11:50.

Dave Martin for the IAAF