Abel Kirui of Kenya crosses the Marathon finish line to win the gold medal and set a Championship Record of 2:06:54 at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Portsmouth, UK

T. Bekele and Kirui headline Portsmouth 10-Miler, Pavey to face strong domestic challenge

26 October 2012 - Portsmouth, UK - Olympic Games medallists Tariku Bekele and Abel Kirui lead the overseas visitors competing at the Bupa Great South Run in Portsmouth on Sunday, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

But the head-to-head confrontation between four top British women led by the evergreen Jo Pavey could in competitiveness overshadow the high profile appearances of the Ethiopian and Kenyan stars.

Bekele, third in the London Games 10,000m final and Kirui, who claimed the Marathon silver medal, are the main contenders for the 10 Miles race men's title which has apart from Mo Farah's victory three years ago been dominated by African runners since German Stephane Franke claimed his 1998 success.

The sequence is likely to continue again this weekend with Kirui - also the reigning World Marathon gold medallist after back-to-back Championship victories in 2009 and 2011 - having clocked his personal best of 46:40 in last year's race, holding the benefit of course knowledge. 

Bekele - the 25-year-old younger brother of the Ethiopian legendary distance star Kenenisa - ran a slightly slower 46.44 for the distance last year, but later posted an impressive mark of 43:35 when winning the Sao Paulo San Silvestre 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) on New Year's Eve.

"I've heard it's a fast course which should suit my style of running, and the hamstring soreness I had is no longer a problem," said Bekele who was troubled by the injury in last month's Lisbon Half Marathon.

The two favourites face a field that includes former European Cross Country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem of Spain along with Irishman Alistair Cragg who ran one of the best races of his career when placing third around the Portsmouth course 12 months ago.

Leading the British challenge will be USA-based Andrew Lemoncello who after a lengthy absence won last month's Denver Half Marathon quickly following up with second position at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run, and Jonny Mellor a surprise victor of last month's Bupa Great Yorkshire Run.

The women's contest promises to be a fascinating engagement with evergreen 39-year-old veteran Pavey bidding to regain the title she won in 2006, facing a posse of much younger rivals.

Pavey returns to the race which heralded the beginning of her road running career with her confidence sky high after two superb Olympic Games performances where she was leading European finisher in both the 5000m and 10,000m finals.

Now she faces another major test after her fifth finish in last month's Bupa Great Run Half Marathon.  Running with legs that were still weary after her London exploits was a commendable display and saw her first Brit across the line.

Pavey now in full training for the fast approaching Yokohama Marathon on November 18, revealed she may again have tired limbs having stepped up her endurance preparations for the high profile Japanese race.

"I've been concentrating my training for Yokohama and it's been progressing very well," said Pavey preferring to stay at home in Devon rather than go to a traditional warm weather camp abroad.

"Not going abroad before the Olympic Games worked very well for me and Gavin (her husband and coach) felt it would be the way ahead before my autumn marathon."

Pavey, despite her veteran status has every intention of making a fifth successive Olympic Games appearance and is already planning the path towards the trip to Rio de Janeiro in four years time.

"I know I'm there to be shot at by my fellow Britons and this is a good thing. But it is also very important to maintain my position as a world class runner and that's my strategy in the next few years." - Jo Pavey

"That is what our intentions are but you never know what's around the corner such as injuries and illness," she added. "But younger athletes can suffer just as well.

"I know I'm there to be shot at by my fellow Britons and this is a good thing. But it is also very important to maintain my position as a world class runner and that's my strategy in the next few years."

Team GB Olympians Julia Bleasdale who was a position behind Pavey in both their races in the Olympic Park and Claire Hallissey who competed in the Marathon will be aiming to exploit any tiredness arising from Pavey's pre-Yokohama preparations.

But the most likely candidate to cause an upset will be Gemma Steel who in the last 18 months has emerged as the likeliest successor to Paula Radcliffe, Mara Yamauchi and Pavey when eventually stepping up to Marathon distance.

Steel 26, has beaten all three World class stars in her rise to the top flight. Although finishing two positions behind Pavey in the GNR she then went on to achieve a highly positive seventh place at the World Half Marathon Championships three weeks ago.

Having set her personal 10 miles best of 53:44 at the 2010 Bupa Great South Run she is clearly in shape to go much faster and may possess the form to better the time of 52:46 which Pavey achieved in her success six years ago.

It promises to be an exciting domestic battle but the British runners will be advised to keep a close eye on the overseas visitors led by former World Half Marathon champion Berhane Adere plus Alessandra Aguilar and Nadia Ejjafini.

Gareth Turnbull for the IAAF