World-class field as Alyson Dixon faces up to huge challenge in Great North Run

Sunderland's Alyson Dixon crosses the line at the Great North Run last year, doing the "Borini". Picture by Kevin Brady
Sunderland's Alyson Dixon crosses the line at the Great North Run last year, doing the "Borini". Picture by Kevin Brady
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Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon will line-up in the Great North Run in a field that would grace an Olympic final.

Dixon, who finished a superb fourth (72min 4sec) last year in the race from Newcastle to South Shields, will mix it with the world’s best.

For included in the race are Olympic gold medallists Vivian Cheruiyot and Tirunesh Dibaba, who will take on Priscah Jeptoo in a packed elite women’s field in the world-famous half-marathon.

Cheruiyot makes her Great North Run debut, having won gold over 5,000m in Rio, following her silver medal in the world record-breaking 10,000m a week earlier in which Dibaba won bronze.

Between Cheruiyot and Dibaba, they have won 10 Olympic medals and 15 world titles. Cheruiyot is now focusing on the road, having retired from the track following Rio.

The 32-year-old Kenyan, who turns 33 on race day, is looking forward to making the step up to the half-marathon. Dibaba is aiming to repeat her GNR victory of 2012.

Jeptoo is another one to watch in the 13.1-mile race, having run 65.45 in her Great North Run victory of 2013. This is the fastest time in the women’s field.

British interest focuses on Gemma Steel and Dixon, whose last half-marathon outings, in the European Championships in Amsterdam in July, saw them finish 10th and 13th respectively.

Steel finished second behind winner Mary Keitany last year, while Dixon is having her first competitive outing since finishing a creditable 28th in the Olympic marathon.

Others in the field include Kenyans Joyce Chepkirui the 2014 Commonwealth 10,000m champion, and Filomena Chepchirchir. They will be joined by Brits Susan Partridge, Charlotte Purdue, Freya Ross and Lily Partridge.

In the men’s race, Mo Farah goes for an unprecedented third successive victory.

The four-time Olympic champion has world half-marathon bronze medallist Dathan Ritzenheinand and New Zealand half marathon record holder Zane Robertson as his main challengers on the pre-entry list.

Relatively unknown Kenyans and Ethiopans are capable of posing threats and Great South Run winner over 10 miles, Emmanuel Bett, is in the line up.

Farah revealed that the Great North Run is one of his favourite events. Farah’s time of 59.22, in his victory last year setting a UK record, is the fastest of the quartet from Robertson’s 59;47 and the 60;00 of Ritzenhein.

In a race where the opposition seems slightly weaker than in the previous two years, expect Farah to complete his hat-trick over the half marathon distance from Newcastle to South Shields.

Kenya’s double Olympic champion and world record holder over 800m, David Rudisha, is the star attraction in tomorrow’s Great North City Games as varied events take place on a special adapted surface on the Gateshead side of the Tyne.

Rudisha races over 500m against 400m specialists. The 100m, pole vault and long jump are included starting near the Millennium Bridge.