Priscah Jeptoo wins the 2013 Bupa Great North Run (© Mark Shearman)
The 25th edition of the Bupa Great South Run promises some intriguing clashes as specialists over the longer and shorter distances go head to head over 10 miles on the roads of Portsmouth on England’s south coast at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (26).
Olympic marathon silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo is the biggest name in the women’s field. The Kenyan won both the London and New York Marathons last year and clocked a world-leading 1:05:45 over 13.1 miles at the 2013 Great North Run.
She will contend for victory if she can produce her best form, but the 2011 world marathon silver medallist hasn’t competed since failing to finish the London marathon in April.
Former world 10,000m champion Linet Masai makes her second appearance on Britain’s roads in as many weeks, having finished third in Birmingham on her half-marathon debut. She again faces the two athletes who finished ahead of her last Sunday, compatriots Polline Wanjiku and Doris Changeywo, but will welcome the shorter, more familiar distance, having won over 10 miles last month in Amsterdam in 53:09.
Wanjiku in particular looked strong in Birmingham and, having only been racing seriously for 18 months, seems to be improving in every race. A 1:09:06 half marathon in Poland earlier this year suggests that she is well placed to improve on the 56:43 she recorded at the Great South Run in 2013.
The home hopes rest on the shoulders of Gemma Steel, the winner of the Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffield and the second-place finisher at the Great North Run last month, where she finished in between Mary Keitany and Olympic champion Tiki Gelana. Indeed, the 28-year-old hasn’t finished outside of the top three in any of her ten road races in 2014 and will be difficult to beat in familiar conditions.
Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira is another 2014 medal winner, having picked up bronze over 10,000m at the African Championships in August to go with her world bronze from 2013. The 2012 Olympic finalist last raced a month ago in Colombia, where she won over 10km in 33:52 and, with a 10 miles best of 52:49 from last year, should feature.
Also in the race are the USA’s Stephanie Bruce, Poland’s Iwona Lewandowska and Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar, with all three boasting international experience.
In the men’s race, a who’s who of participants from the summer’s major championships go head to head, including Australia’s Michael Shelley, winner of the marathon at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, who finds himself up against Daniele Meucci, who took gold on the roads at Zurich’s European Championships.
The 31-year-old Shelley makes his debut over 10 miles, while Meucci can draw confidence from a 46:50 clocking at Portsmouth two years ago when he placed fourth.
Both athletes will, however, face strong challenges from Kenyan trio Emmanuel Bett, Josphat Bett and Joel Kimutai, as well as track specialists Andy Vernon and Zane Robertson.
Emmanuel Bett was the 2013 winner of this race, having battled strong winds to cross the line in 48:03. He will be hoping to better not only that time, but his second-place finish at last weekend’s Bupa Great Birmingham Run where he was defeated by his countryman Kimutai over 13.1 miles.
The latter produced a superb breakthrough performance in the English Midlands, although with only a week to recover, he may find it difficult to reproduce that form, especially against home favourite Vernon, the European 10,000m silver and 5000m bronze medallist, who will hope to utilise his speed in the closing stages of the race.
New Zealand’s Robertson took 5000m bronze in Glasgow and was also second at the IAAF Continental Cup last month, so is capable of mounting a challenge, as are Uganda’s Commonwealth marathon bronze medallist Abraham Kiplimo, USA’s Ben Bruce and Kenya’s James Rungaru.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF