Farah versus Bekele and Gebrselassie in ‘dream team’ Bupa Great North Run


It is anticipated to be the greatest ever head-to-head half marathon.

Mo Farah, the double Olympic champion, faces one of the most challenging contests of his career when facing Ethiopian superstars Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie at the Bupa Great North Run.

The awesome 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 at the world’s greatest half marathon on September 15.

“No one could ask for a better ‘dream team’ to participate in their event and we are delighted they will feature in what has the makings of the greatest head-to-head in half marathon history,” said Brendan Foster, founder of the event.

“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. 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 a very impressive time of 59:33.”

Gebrselassie, who missed last year’s race through injury, is looking forward to sparring with his younger rivals in the BBC televised event.

“I’m just delighted I am returning to the Bupa Great North Run,” said the ‘Emperor’, as he is affectionately known. “I can still compete at the highest level and I look forward to giving both of them a run for their money.

“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 whilst 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 5,000m 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 he smashed Nick Rose’s 1985 UK record with a time of 1:00:59, scoring a very tense victory when out-sprinting another Ethiopian heavyweight Gebre Gebremariam, the former World Cross Country title holder, in New Orleans.

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 am delighted to finally make my debut in the main event,” said Farah.

“It is always one of the world’s top half marathon races and this year promises to be a great race with me against Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele.

“I remember watching Haile win the 2000 Olympic Games in a sprint finish in Sydney when I was just 17 years old.

“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 the best distance track and cross country runner in the history of athletics and along with Gebrselassie recognised as a genuine ‘legend’ in the sport, 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 started my international career when winning the Great North Cross Country in Newcastle over 10 years ago and I was grateful for that opportunity,” said Bekele, then a teenager.

“Now I’m looking forward to my half marathon debut. 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, determined just as he was when launching his spectacular 5,000m and 10,000m career and following in Gebrselassie’s footsteps as global number one and world record holder, knows the BBC televised Bupa Great North Run will provide a perfect backdrop to launch a serious road racing career.

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