Tirunesh Dibaba, the Ethiopian who holds the world and Olympic 10,000m titles, will renew her keen East African rivalry with Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat when she lines up in the Bupa Great North Run on Sunday 7 September.
Kiplagat, who ran her way into the record books in Moscow last summer as the first back to back winner of the World Championship women’s marathon title, was beaten by Dibaba in a thrilling sprint finish in the 2012 Bupa Great North Run.
The tables were turned in the London Marathon in April this year, though. After Dibaba dropped a bottle at the 30k drinks station, Kiplagat pulled clear with her compatriot and namesake Florence Kiplagat, winning the 26.2 mile race in a sprint finish.
Dibaba had to settle for third place in her debut marathon but returned to winning ways in the Bupa Great Manchester Run 10k in May. The 28-year-old has not raced since then but is getting ready for what promises to be another gripping head-to-head with Kiplagat.
Dibaba has been a trailblazer in women’s distance running for more than a decade now. She became the youngest ever individual world champion when she won the global 5,000m title as an 18-year-old at the Stade de France in Paris in 2003 – earning the nickname ‘the baby faced assassin.’
The 5ft 1in phenomenon became the first woman to complete an Olympic double at 5,000m and 10,000m when she struck gold at both distances in Beijing in 2008. In all, Dibaba has won three Olympic golds (she successfully defended her 10,000m crown at London 2012) and five world track titles.
She has held the world 5,000m record, 14 minutes 11.15 seconds, since 2008 and extended her range to the marathon in London on 13 April, finishing third behind the two Kiplagats in 2 hours 20 minutes 35 seconds.
It made Dibaba the third fastest ever debutante as a women’s marathon runner, behind Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Kenya’s Lucy Kabuu. She would have undoubtedly been faster had she not lost touch with the Kiplagats after dropping her drink bottle. “I will definitely do another marathon,” she said.
Dibaba’s form over the half marathon distance on Tyneside will be a pointer towards her prospects in a second venture over the marathon distance but she will be up against a rival seeking a place in the record books.
Only four women have won the elite women’s races at the Bupa Great North Run and the London Marathon in the same year: Liz McColgan (who was the first to achieve the feat, back in 1996), Joyce Chepchumba (1999), Paula Radcliffe (2003) and Priscah Jeptoo (2013).
There is another major threat, however, in the elite women’s field for the prestigious IAAF Gold Label event:  Mary Keitany, the 32-year-old Kenyan won the London Marathon in 2011 and 2012 and stands third on the world all-time list for the marathon. Only Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Liliya Shobukhova of Russia have run faster than the 2 hours 18 minutes 38 seconds that Keitany clocked in the 2012 London race.
Keitany is also a former world record holder for the half marathon. The 1 hour 05 minutes 50 seconds that she recorded for 13.1 miles in the Ras Al Khaimah event in the United Arab Emirates in February 2011 stood until February of this year, when Florence Kiplagat clocked 1:05:12 in Barcelona.
The elite men’s race for the 2014 Bupa Great North Run has attracted Mo Farah, the Briton who holds the world, Olympic and European 5,000m and 10,000m titles, and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, the reigning world and Olympic marathon champion.
This year’s event is guaranteed to be a momentous occasion. It will be the first running event in the world to reach a landmark one million finishers.
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