Spanish distance runner Alessandra Aguilar in action (© Getty Images)
Following East African dominance in recent years, there promises to be a European flavour to the 2015 edition of the Great Birmingham Run, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, which takes place on Sunday (18).
Britain’s 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson, who finished second to Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko over the same half marathon distance in this race back in 2013, is the local favourite, although he has raced sparingly since his 2:11:19 marathon debut in London nearly 18 months ago.
Posing the biggest challenge to Thompson will be Italy’s Ruggero Pertile, the 41-year-old who is enjoying a productive twilight to a career that has seen him place in the top 10 of the 2007 New York and Boston marathons, as well as the London Olympics and the 2011 World Championships.
Indeed, the Italian recorded his best ever result in a global championships this summer in Beijing, clocking 2:14:22 for fourth place, a result that matched his position at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona.
Ayad Lamdassem and Javier Guerra join Pertile and Thompson in Birmingham and the Spanish duo will both fancy their chances of taking victory.
Lamdassem clocked 1:03:48 over 13.1 miles at the Luanda Half Marathon in Angola recently and has a best of 1:01:22 for the distance, set at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in 2014. The 34-year-old also has pedigree over the full marathon, placing ninth in London in 2013 in 2:09.28.
His countryman Guerra, the fourth-place finisher in the marathon at the European Championships last year, has been in good form in 2015, setting his half marathon best of 1:02:22 back in March and placing 13th in the marathon in Beijing.
Also competing in what should be an open race are Romania’s Marius Ionescu, Hermano Ferreira of Portugal and Estonia’s Roman Fosi.
The women’s race is equally tough to call.
Proving that experience counts in endurance running, Spain’s 37-year-old Alessandra Aguilar lines up against Great Britain’s evergreen 41-year-old Helen Clitheroe. They are joined by Italian pair Emma Quaglia and Laila Soufyane, who are 35 and 32 respectively.
Aguilar clocked 2:29:45 for the marathon in London this spring, while 2011 European indoor 3000m champion Clitheroe has mainly raced over 10km this year, recording 33:43 back in March. However, with a half marathon best of 1:11:46 from 2013, the two-time World Championships finalist will pose a threat.
Of the Italian athletes, Soufayne has the strongest recent form, with a 1:12:43 half marathon to her name in 2015.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, Poland’s Dominika Napieraj, a sprightly 23, will be buoyed by a podium finish in August’s Lodz 10km and victory earlier this year in 32:46 in Warsaw and will look to make an impression on her half marathon debut.
Great Britain’s Kate Brough, a team gold medallist at the 2013 European Cross Country Championships, Italy’s Agnes Tschurtschenthaler and Spain’s Maria Azcuena Diaz also line up.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF