Haile Gebrselassie running in the 2009 BUPA Great Manchester Run (10km) (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Manchester, UK

Gebrselassie and Pavey chasing third titles in Manchester

Haile Gebrselassie insists he is in the best possible shape and ready to chalk up a third victory when competing at the Bupa Great Manchester Run on Sunday (16), an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Gebrselassie makes no bones the major attraction of returning to Manchester is that the 10 kilometres course is not only one of the fastest in the world and being one of only three holding an IAAF gold label permit, acknowledged as a top notch event.

That status has seen not only the mighty Ethiopian the world's greatest-ever distance runner but many other fellow Olympic and World champions, compete there since the race's inception in 2003 which for the first time this weekend will be televised live by BBC2 from 1000am-1130am and can be watched internationally on a stream appearing on www.greatrun.org.

"Providing the weather remains okay, the flatness of the course makes it an ideal venue for breaking records," said Gebrselassie who set the first of the two United Kingdom all-comers' records achieved over the fast tarmac five years ago.

"I still believe on that occasion I could have challenged my then world record if the pacemakers had got everything right, but never mind I was more than happy with the time of of 27 minutes 25 seconds."

The 37-year-old African returned last May adamant he could not only regain the world mark from Micah Kogo who had clocked 27min 01sec two month's earlier but also reclaim the UK -all-comers mark after the Kenyan ran 27min 21sec in Manchester with his 2007 victory.

Gebrselassie said: "I was well on target to pulling it off until the halfway mark but it fell away when on my own I was running into a strong headwind all the way back on the return leg.

"This year of course I want to make another challenge to do so. I'm in great shape and I've been thinking about the race ever since I was invited to take part at the beginning of the year."

There were questions asked in January how much longer Gebrselassie could continue mixing his business commitments with the essential training required to maintain his domination of the world road running scene.

Indeed after failing to smash his world marathon record in Dubai although running a very fast time, eyebrows were raised when he dropped out of the New York half marathon six weeks ago.

However the holder of 26 World records bounced back brilliantly three weeks ago in Madrid, strolling to a solid 10km success which emphasised the asthma problem he suffered in the "Big Apple" was a mere blip.

The two-time Olympic 10,000m champion has emphasised his performance in Manchester will strongly influence his strategy as he looks towards an autumn marathon.

"Then I will decide whether to run in the Berlin or Chicago marathon," said Gebrselassie.

Gebrselassie with former world marathon title holder Luke Kibet not starting, his main challengers will be Spanish replacement Jose Rios and Ukrainian Sergiy Lebid, an eight-time European cross country gold medallist along with Britain's Dan Robinson.

Pavey leads women's field

Jo Pavey will test herself fully for the first time since the birth of her son Jacob last September and is intent on scoring a third win after the first of her two successive victories three years ago.

The Commonwealth 5000me silver medallist would have loved to have achieved a hat trick 12 months ago but pregnancy prevented her achieving the feat. Now the 36-year-old who had a warm up race when finishing runner-up in last month's SPAR Great Ireland Run is planning to step up a gear as she looks to rebuild her career after motherhood.

"I hadn't planned to run in Dublin but the organisers had problems with athletes travel arrangements because of the severe disruption caused by the volcanic ash situation, so I caught a ferry over," said Pavey.

"It was nice to get the legs working again but Manchester is going to be a lot harder," said Pavey whose major aim this summer is qualifying for the European Championships over 10,000m.

The event will also see Jelena Prokopcuka and Susan Chepkemei also making their first major international appearances since themselves becoming proud mums.

Latvia's  Prokopcuka a two-time New York Marathon champion is no stranger to the Great Manchester Run having finished second in 2005 and notching third place last year.

Chepkemei one of the best Kenyan athletes of her era and a past Commonwealth 10,000m silver medallist will also be donning her running shoes as she looks to prove she is still a world class runner.

Derartu Tulu when it comes both to running and children outranks the trio. The two-time Olympic 10,000m gold medallist not only has two children of her own but has also adopted a further four in her native Ethiopia.

"I do everything apart from the cooking in the house and fit in my training around what is a very long day," said Tulu, second at the very first Great Manchester Run in 2003.

Tulu who struggled on the hills in the recent Bupa Great Edinburgh Run is determined to make amends on the fast and flat Manchester course which suits her running style.

Tulu's fellow countrywoman Worknesh Kidane after asking to be included in the race was added to the field - a recognition of the support she has given to past Great Run events over a 10-year period.

David Martin (PA Sport) for the IAAF