Haile Gebrselassie and Patrick Makau at the pre-race press conference in Berlin (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Haile Gebrselassie, Kenyan Patrick Makau and Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede won’t be on their national teams for the Games. While Gebrselassie’s career is in its final stages, Makau and Kebede will be eager to show that they would have been well worth a place for London.
To make it even more interesting in Sunday’s IAAF Gold Label Road Race race in Manchester they will be up against Ethiopian newcomer Ayele Abshero, who in contrast has been nominated for the Olympic Marathon. While the men’s race will feature prominent Marathon runners the women’s favourite is a 10,000m specialist: Kenya’s Linet Masai, the 2009 World champion.
It fits to the jubilee edition that the men’s race will see one of the best fields in the history of the event. It was less than eight months ago, when Gebrselassie entered the Berlin Marathon as the world record holder at this distance (2:03:59). With a breathtaking performance Makau not only beat the Ethiopian but also brought the World record back to Kenya. While Makau clocked 2:03:38 Gebrselassie dropped out due to breathing problems after running strongly for 27 kilometres, proving that he was in great form. When he meets Makau on Sunday he will have done some speedwork since he will run his final 10,000m race in Hengelo a week later.
"I feel fine, my form is not much different to last year – may be I am a little bit slower," Gebrselassie said in Vienna a month ago after winning a Half Marathon chase race against Paula Radcliffe in 1:00:52. For the 39 year-old Manchester is something like a home game, having won here in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2005 he clocked 27:25, at the time a course record. A year ago he finished in 28:10, but in better weather conditions and with stronger challengers could have run much faster.
Makau, who dropped out of the London Marathon last month due to a muscle problem in his leg, was obviously very disappointed after he learnt that he was not selected for the Kenyan team despite holding the World record. He will be eager to perform very well on Sunday to show that he should have been in the team. The 27-year-old has not run a 10k race for three years. His official personal best at the distance, 27:27, is a Half Marathon split time from the 2009 Ras Al Kahaimah race. But he has been faster at another Half Marathon: In Berlin in 2007 he passed the 10k point in 27:27, when he went on to win in 58:56. If Makau has fully recovered and has been able to put in some speedwork he could well attack the course record – even though he concentrates mainly on the Marathon. Fellow Kenyan Micah Kogo holds the Manchester record at 27:21 set in 2007.
A third place in the London Marathon in April with 2:06:52 was not enough for Tsegaye Kebede to make the Ethiopian team. It is now Manchester instead of London for the 2008 Olympic marathon bronze medallist. Similar to Makau the 25-year-old has not run in a 10k race for a couple of years. It was in Bangalore in 2008 when he competed last at the distance, clocking a personal best of 28:10.
In Manchester former London Marathon winner Kebede will meet the fastest runner of Ethiopia’s newest Marathon generation. 21-year-old Ayele Abshero surprised everyone when he took the Dubai Marathon in January with 2:04:23 in his debut. His pesonal best at 10k stands at 28:11 from 2010, but he should be able to run faster than that.
Ukraine’s nine-time European Cross Country Champion Sergiy Lebid, Kenya’s John Kelai, Spain’s Carlos Castillejo plus the Japanese Suehiro Ishikawa and Takahiro Yamanaka could reach good placings on Sunday.
Masai the strong favourite - Women’s race
It is difficult to see Masai being beaten in Manchester on Sunday. For the 22-year-old Kenyan the 10,000m has been her most successful event besides Cross Country. On the track she followed up her 2009 World title with a bronze last year in Daegu. Additionally she was fourth in the 2008 Olympics, clocking a World junior record 30:26.50 which still stands. On the road Masai has run 30:48.
In February she clocked 31:15 when taking third in San Juan, just eight seconds shy of the Manchester course record of 31:07 set by Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere in 2006.
While Masai is the big favourite it could get very close behind her. Three Britsh runners in particular will attract attention: while Mara Yamauchi will test her form during her build up for the Olympic marathon, Charlotte Purdue and Gemma Steel could do well on Sunday. Steel had a fine cross country season and won the Dublin 10k a month ago with a personal best of 32:06. Purdue was just four seconds behind her in Ireland, also clocking a personal record.
But there are at least another six runners, who will be in contention for top places: Italian marathon runners Anna Incerti and Nadia Ejjafini, the Commonwealth Games Marathon Champion from 2010 Irene Jerotich, Commonwealth Games silver medallist in the 10,000m from 2010 Doris Changeiywo (both Kenya), Australia’s 10k record holder Benita Willis (31:17 in Manchester in 2006) and Aniko Kalovics (Hungary), who has run the distance in 31:42.
Ennis in CityGames spotlight
Jessica Ennis is one of several world class stars who will be bidding for Olympic Games glory later this summer competing at the Powerade Great CityGames on Sunday afternoon.
The 2009 World Heptathlon champion is amongst a line up at the innovative street meeting in the city's Deansgate which also includes American Olympic medal contenders Wallace Spearmon, Danielle Carruthers, Dawn Harper and Sanya Richards-Ross plus potential British hopefuls Andy Turner and Holly Bleasdale.
Ennis takes part in her first 100m Hurdles race of the year against the 2011 World Championships silver and bronze medallists, Carruthers who is chasing a third successive Great CityGames win and Harper the reigning Olympic champion who is itching for another golden victory in less than three months time.
Harper will arrive after a long flight from Korea and her win at the Colourful Daegu Championships meeting on Wednesday in a swift season's best time of 12.65 following her victory in Guadeloupe last week where she clocked an equally impressive 12.71.
Spearmon who suffered the heartbreak of being disqualified after finishing third over 200m at the Beijing Olympics, has already shown top class form this season on American soil and is determined to continue it over 150m when lining up against the European sprint trio of Francis Obikwelu from Portugal, Dwain Chambers and Marlon Devonish who is the fastest Briton over the distance.
The 27-year-old Chicago born ace has promised something extra special on the purpose built Manchester track, planning to attack the USA record of 14.51 which Tyson Gay achieved a year ago and even target Usain Bolt's world best performance of 14.35 the Jamaican posted at the inaugural meeting in 2009.
Obikwelu, a former Olympic 100m silver medallist, has switched from the 100m as a replacement for the injured 2011 World 100m and 200m silver medallist Walter Dix and the occasional training partner of Chambers, could figure strongly in what should be a piping hot encounter.
Ireland's Number One Paul Hession has stepped into his 100m spot where he faces European 100m silver medallist Mark Lewis-Francis and Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut the European junior champion who also made last August's World Championships final placing sixth.
The meeting will also see Richards-Ross one of the world's greatest athletes and who will be one of the biggest challengers to relieve Christine Ohuruogu of her Olympic 400m title at the London Games, in action over 200m with 2007 World one lap silver medallist Nicola Sanders carrying British hopes for a win.
Turner after a triumphant 2010 season where he won both the Commonwealth and European 110m Hurdles titles enhanced his reputation even further when winning the World Championships bronze medal last summer.
Now after a demanding warm weather period of training in the USA he faces David Payne the 2008 Olympic silver medallist before also defending his 200m hurdles title.
Pole vaulter Bleasdale who showed her vast potential for the future when placing third in this year's World Indoor Championships is set to display her vast talent to local fans when the Pole Vault event takes place on a specially erected arena in Manchester's Albert Square close to Deansgate.
The Blackburn athlete's main opponents will be Russian-born, 2010 European Championships bronze medallist Lisa Ryzih, now representing Germany and the fastly improving Swiss vaulter Nicole Buchler.
Gambian-born Jaysuma Ndure who gained Norwegian nationality and finished fourth in last year's World Championships 200m, tackles David Neville the USA's Olympic 400m bronze medallist over his speciality distance with Luke Leonard-Ford and James Ellington carrying British hopes.
Verena Sailer of Germany the current European 100m champion runs over the distance against Candyce McGrone the USA's NCAA champion with Joice Maduaka providing the host nation challenge.
The 150m features the USA pair LaShaunte Moore - winner over 200m in Daegu earlier in the week - and Stephanie Durst in a race against Irish hurdler Derval O'Rourke looking for flat speed in her Olympic build up and Montell Douglas.
Both events will be televised live on BBC: The Great Manchester Run from 10:00 to 12:30 and the CityGames from 15:30 to 17:00. All times local.
Jörg Wenig and David Martin for the IAAF