Derebe Alemu, who won last month's New Delhi Half Marathon champion, heads a competitive women’s race field at the 2007 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run, a 10km event set for Sunday (25) in Addis Ababa.
A weakened elite men’s field sees St. George runner Raja Assefa heading the Ethiopian challenge against a revamped field of eight Kenyans.
WOMEN - Alemu on verge of major breakthrough?
This weekend could see Derebe Alemu emerge from years of mediocrity. The 25-year old, who along with Werknesh Kidane, Mestawet Tufa, and Ejegayehou Dibaba, emerged on the international scene in the early part of this millennium, can so far boast only has a ninth place finish in the long race of the 2005 World Cross Country Championships as her career highlight.
However, her form has recently been on the up on the roads beating Kenya’s former Boston Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo and compatriot Etalemahu Kidane to smash the national 4 mile record in Groningen, Netherlands in October. She followed that up with a surprise win in the New Delhi Half Marathon in India at the end of the month.
Her biggest challenge on Sunday is expected to come from Atsede Habtamu, who finished fifth at the World Road Running Championships in Udine, Italy. Habtamu, previously unknown before finishing second in the Ethiopian trials for Udine, was a close second in New Delhi behind Alemu.
Their closest rival will be Wude Ayalew. The EEPCO-club runner has been in poor form since storming to a surprise fifth place finish in the 2006 World Cross Country championships. But after two road victories in the US recently, she is ready for a race to launch her career path.
Defending champion Belaynesh Fekadu makes a return to the course that saw her take one of the most impressive victories in the six-year history of the race. She is part of an Omedla sports club team that is trying to return to their glory days when Berhane Adere and Gete Wami won virtually every domestic honour available.
Bezunesh Urgessa, second in the African junior championships 3000m race in August, and Asselefech Mergia, winner of the 2007 Confidence Women First 5km and bronze medallist over both the 1500m and 5000m at the Ethiopian track championships, bring solid track credentials to the contest.
MEN - Ethiopia’s next generation on show against Kenyans
It is tricky to pick a favourite for the 10km showdown, but St. George runner Raja Assefa may just edge out the rest given his experience on the roads. Third in the 2006 Ethiopian 20km championships in Sululta, Assefa also finished 12th over the half marathon at the 2nd IAAF World Road Running Championships in Udine in October.
Demessew Tsega, 10th in last year’s race, has improved a lot over the cross country, but has not own over critics on the track or on the road just yet. Zenbaba Yegezu, runner-up in 2004, is on a long comeback road, while Solomon Tsige, who will be making his fourth appearance, will face his biggest test since recovering from injury earlier this year.
Organizers also expect a tough battle from the Kenyan squad which includes all the podium finishers from the 2007 Standard Chartered Nairobi 10km recently - Barnabas Segei, Sammy Karanja, and Barnabas Kosgei, while Emmanuel Chammer and Philip Koech are other expected runners in the field.
Other highlights…. Children’s race, VIPs….
A busy schedule of activities in the race weekend sees the staging of the 2007 AIMS Children Series on Saturday. Around 3000 participants are expected to take part in four races for boys and girls under the age of 8 & 11.
Attending this year’s race will be former 5000m World record holder David Moorcroft who is a former Chief Executive Officer of UK Athletics, Geoff Wightman, the current Chief Executive of Scottish Athletics, and Mary Wittenburg, the CEO of New York Road Runners, the organizers of the ING New York City Marathon).
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF