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all eyes on the north east

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Mo Farah GNR

The BUPA Great North Run will again hit the streets of the north-east as some of the world’s best athletes take part in the prestigious half marathon. Two of the greats of distance running, Mo Farah and Tirunesh Dibaba will take part in the events twenty-third staging, which will see its one millionth finisher cross the line in South Shields on Sunday 7 September. 

Double Olympic, world and European champion over 5000m and 10,000m, Farah will return to the start-line looking to avenge his narrow defeat in last year’s event, where he was edged out by Kenenisa Bekele in a sprint finish. Although there won’t be a re-run between the two this year, Farah will face Kenenisa’s brother, Tariku Bekele, the Olympic bronze medallist behind Farah over 10,000m in London. Farah will also face opposition from Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic and world marathon champion who will be seeking even more success in the UK.

Andy Vernon returns from his silver and bronze medal haul at the European Championships in Zurich last month, the Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete hoping to translate his impressive track form onto the roads over the 13.1 miles distance. He will be joined by more Brits on the start-line including Jonny Mellor who broke his 5000m personal best at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix in July as well as youngsters Jonny Hay and Luke Caldwell.

Tirunesh Dibaba heads a strong women’s field, as the decorated Olympic and world medallist aims to repeat her victory from 2012, however Gemma Steel will be tough opposition and the best of the British contingent. She recently won the infamous Beach to Beacons 10k in America with a time of 31.26 to go third on the UK all-time list over the distance. Steel also won the Great North 10k in July so will be hoping for more success in the north-east.

Susan Partridge will also be a contender returning after finishing sixth in the Commonwealth Games marathon, whilst fellow Brits Alyson Dixon, Sonia Samuels and Charlotte Purdue will also be looking to make an impression.

Tiki Gelana, the Olympic marathon champion in 2012, Edna Kiplagat, the world marathon champion from 2011 and 2013 and Mary Keitany, the former half marathon world record holder will also be amongst the contenders to take the BUPA Great North Run crown in 2014.

The elite wheelchair races are set to be equally entertaining, the women’s race welcoming the return of IPC European medallists to the roads. Jade Jones, who at the age of 18 has won medals at the Commonwealth Games and the IPC European championships this summer will make her debut over the half marathon, whilst five-time champion Shelly Woods will use her experience in her attempt to regain her title. Mel Nicholls, who recently won a bronze in the 100m and silver in the 800m in the T54 events in Swansea, will take to the roads for the first time as she looks to build her endurance.

In the men’s event, Britain’s Simon Lawson, runner-up last year will be one of the favourites as will fellow Brit, Brett Crossley. Will Smith, the 17 year-old transfers from the track where he has competed at the Commonwealth Game and IPC Europeans this summer to take on the half marathon distance.

Preceding the half marathon on Saturday 6 September will be the Great North CityGames on Gateshead quay. The purpose built track will again dominate the quayside as thousands of fans will come to watch the star-filled field in action.

A unique 500m race has been assembled and the all-British affair will see some of the country’s best athletes from different events come together. World 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu will line-up against European 400m hurdles champion Eilidh Child, whilst 800m trio of European and Commonwealth silver medallist Lynsey Sharp, former world bronze medallist Jenny Meadows and GB & NI international Alison Leonard will look to spoil the party.

Other big showdowns include Jonnie Peacock and Richard Browne in the T44 100m. The American is unbeaten against Peacock this year but the newly crowned European champion will be hoping for victory in the north east to go with his 2012 Olympic and 2013 world titles. Other highlights in the sprints include Jodie Williams taking on Allyson Felix in the women’s 150m; Tiffany Porter up against Dawn Harper-Nelson and Brianna Rollins in the 100m hurdles and the men’s 110m hurdles which will be Andy Turner’s last ever competitive race. He will line-up against European silver medallist, William Sharman, Olympic champion Aries Merritt and former world record holder, Dayron Robles.

In the mile events last year’s men’s winner, American Garrett Heath, will take on the recent Emsley Carr mile winner from the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix, Asbel Kiprop. The women’s race will see 2014 Commonwealth and European medallist Laura Weightman competing in front of a home crowd as she takes on Laura Muir and Hannah England as well as an international field. European and Commonwealth long jump champion Greg Rutherford will be looking for another victory as he takes on recent Diamond League triple jump winner, Christian Taylor.

On Sunday, the masses will be flooding the streets from Newcastle to South Shields once more, in one of the most popular mass participation half marathons in the world. This year, one lucky competitor will become the one millionth finisher of the BUPA Great North Run. The occasion is going to be celebrated on Thursday 4 September with the Great North Run Million at the Newcastle Gateshead Quayside and the River Tyne, with a concert ahead of Sunday’s staging of the event.