Both have been on the wrong side of Derartu Tulu on some notable occasions, and both are former World Half Marathon champions - and it is likely that Paula Radcliffe - Britain’s defending champion, and Elana Meyer, the South African who won this title back in 1994, will be on the podium after tomorrow’s race.
Although they look so different, Paula the English blonde who at 1.73m towers over most women distance runners, and Elena the Afrikaner brunette who measures just 1.58 in her socks, as athletes they have a lot in common. Both have won major honours on the track and have negotiated the roads with similar aplomb.
Meyer, who is now 34, ran a memorable second to Tulu at the 1992 Olympic Games in a 10,000m which saw South Africa return to the international fold and won the World Cup 10,000m in London two years later.
But if anything, Meyer has been even more successful on the roads, and has set three world bests at the Half Marathon distance.
“It’s good for me to be here in Bristol,” said Meyer earlier this afternoon, “because this is a good course and I am looking for a fast time. I been concentrating on the roads recently and apart from the New York Marathon, this will be the most important race of the year. The Half Marathon is the distance I enjoy most, without a doubt.”
Like her African rival, Radcliffe is also starting to combine serious road racing with a track career that has made her a household name in Britain.
Her victory last year in Veracruz was the springboard for a magnificent win in the World Cross Country Championships in Ostend earlier this year, a win at the European 10,000m Challenge in Barakaldo, a superb victory over 10km on the road in New York and a disappointing 4th place finish at the World Championships in Edmonton over 10,000m. M
ore than anything though, a win tomorrow will build her confidence for a hard winter’s training in preparation for what is her eagerly awaited marathon debut in London next Spring.
“The last time I ran a World Championships in England was in Durham at the World Cross back in 1995, but having a home crowd really lifts you. I know the course here in Bristol and I’m really looking forward to it. I am motivated by the fact that it is a World Championships here at home, rather than because I am the defending champion. I am expecting a tough race, but want to make sure it will be my best at this distance to date. Last year, I was running the Half Marathon for the first time, so I am more experienced now.”
And although Radcliffe, who will be 28 in December, enters the race as the favourite, with a best of 1:07:07 which she set at the Great North Run last year, Meyer should definitely not be discounted.
With most eyes on the Kenyan and Ethiopians, “the other” African, who ran a then world best of 1:06:44 just 2 years ago, could provide an upset.
Nick Davies for the IAAF