Double Olympic champion Mo Farah will face one of the most challenging contests of his career when he takes on Ethiopian superstars Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie at the Bupa Great North Run, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in Newcastle on 15 September.
The trio of Olympic and World champions will put their reputations on the line when they clash in the same race for the first time ever.
“We’ve had many fantastic races down the Newcastle to South Shields course in past years, but this will be a competition everyone in the athletics world will want to watch,” said Brendan Foster, founder of the event. “Haile may now be a veteran but he remains an accomplished performer and we should remember he won the Bupa Great North Run three years ago in 59:33."
Gebrselassie, who missed last year's race through injury, is looking forward to sparring with his younger rivals. “I can still compete at the highest level and I look forward to giving both of them a run for their money,” he said.
“This is something special for everyone. It’s going to be a tough contest for all of us which I am sure will result in an exciting race.”
Farah, by contrast, is a relative newcomer to the distance while Bekele will be making an eagerly-awaited 13.1 miles debut.
Farah trains in the United States and was last summer’s double Olympic gold medallist at 5000m and 10,000m, replicating the feat Bekele achieved four years earlier at the Beijing Games. He is already the fastest all-time British half marathoner.
The 30-year-old recorded 1:00:23 when triumphing in his first outing two years ago in New York, the time being ruled out for record purposes because of the course’s downhill gradient. Then last February in New Orleans he officially broke Nick Rose’s UK record with a time of 1:00:59, scoring a tense victory when out-sprinting another Ethiopian heavyweight Gebre Gebremariam, the former World cross-country champion.
After completing his main target of the summer he should hopefully win the World 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals at the Championships being held in Moscow from August 10-18. He will now be determined to become the first Briton to win the Bupa Great North Run since Steve Kenyon in 1985.
“I competed in the mile and two mile events on Great North Run weekend in past years and I’m delighted to finally make my debut in the main event,” said Farah.
“I have experience on the roads but this will be only my third Half-marathon race. I won in New York in 2011 and New Orleans earlier this year. I hope to make it a third win in the North East.”
Bekele, acknowledged as one of the greatest distance runners on the track and cross country, is looking forward to the transition to road running and this will be his first major test before stepping up to a full Marathon.
“I'm looking forward to my Half-marathon debut,” said Bekele. “It’s not going to be easy for me as the others have more experience over the distance and yes, I am the newcomer just starting to pursue a serious road running career.
“But I’ll be coming to the race fully prepared and determined to give it my best shot against two great athletes.”
The 30-year-old, whose World records in the 5000m and 10,000m still stand, knows the Bupa Great North Run will provide a perfect backdrop to launch a serious road racing career.
Organisers for the IAAF