SUNDERLAND Harrier Mark Hood is one of just a few North East athletes who will be on the elite start line in the Bupa Great North Run on Sunday, September 15.
And they will be standing alongside double Olympic champion Mo Farah and Ethiopian greats Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie before they set off for the battle of the giants on the roads from Newcastle to South Shields.
Thirty-year-old Farah will be having his third race over the half-marathon distance and has a best time of 60.59, set when he smashed Nick Rose’s 1985 UK record in New Orleans in February.
He clocked 60.23 in winning in New York two years ago, but the course was ruled out for record purposes because of its downhill gradient.
Gebrselassie, now a 40-year-old veteran, won the Great North Run three years ago in an impressive 59.33. But, despite his advancing years, he still competes at the highest level and will be a force to be reckoned with on Tyneside.
Bekele, like his rivals, has two Olympic gold medals to his name, and along with Gebrselassie, he is acknowledged as one of the best distance runners in the history of athletics.
This will be Bekele’s half-marathon debut before he steps up to the full marathon.
Wearsider Hood has a best of 66.33 from the 2008 GNR and he met the elite entry standard by clocking 67.08 and beating the 69-minute benchmark in 2011.
Times must have been attained within two years of the event. Other times that gain an elite entry are: 10k – 31.00, 10 miles – 51.00, marathon – 2.24.00.
The other North East athletes included on the elite start are Morpeth Harrier veteran Ian Hudspith, Darren Purvis (Birtley), Morpeth’s Peter Newton and James Bullman (New Marske).
Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt has gained an elite women’s entry and she is joined by other North East runners Carolyn Summersgill (Middlesbrough and Cleveland), Gemma Frost (Blackhill), Stacey Rogers (Wallsend) and Claire Simpson (Jarrow & Hebburn).
The elite entry women standards are: 10k – 36.00, 10 miles – 60.00, half-marathon – 80.00, marathon – 2.45.00.
H Sunderland Harriers’ over-40 David Savage and over-50 George Harden won their individual categories in the distance events at the culmination of the North East Veterans’ Athletics League at Monkton. Houghton Harrier Steve Todner came out on top in the over-50 sprints.
Sunderland Harriers finished sixth in both the men’s and women’s leagues. Houghton were seventh in the men’s division.
H Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon will break off from her marathon training and chase her own course record of 33.39 from 2008 in the Darlington 10k on Sunday (10am). Wallsend Harrier Yared Hagos holds the men’s course record (30.06).
Sunderland Harriers entered include Michael Barker, Steven Duffy, Ian Dixon, veteran Paul Redman and Michelle Avery.
H Sunderland Strollers host their club championship race over two laps of the Farringdon cross-country course tonight (7.30pm). The distance is approximately three and a half miles.