Ritzenhein signs up for Great North Run

World half marathon bronze medallist Dathan Ritzenhein will line up against Haile Gebrselassie at the Bupa 30th Great North Run in September.

The American star will return to the North East, where he made his debut over the distance four years ago, to challenge the supremacy of the world's greatest-ever distance runner.

Gebrselassie confirmed his participation last week with Ritzenhein immediately being head hunted by Great North Run organisers and agreeing to challenge the Ethiopian star.

Ritzenhein was third in the 2006 Run where he experimented with the distance for the first time and, although looking a spent force after 11 miles, bounced back to finish third behind South Africa's Hendrick Ramaala and Dejene Berhanu of Ethiopia.

The 27-year-old, new to the event's tactics and tipped to become the new face of American distance running, said: "The pace was all over the place. There was a lot of surging and they were running miles between 4:25 and 5 minutes.

"I tried to be smart and run an even pace. When they kept surging, I didn't panic. And at some points I tried to let them know I wasn't intimidated."

Ritzenhein's career has progressed rapidly since that occasion. On the track, he set a USA 5,000 metres record in Zurich last summer and this year won a third National cross country title.

Last autumn he also took the bronze medal at the World Half Marathon in Birmingham where he ran a time of exactly one hour, which he will be aiming to better when making his return to England.

"We're delighted to get Dathan on board again. He's helping to lead the way in the renaissance of American running and the half marathon distance suits him perfectly," said Peter Riley, the elite athletes manager of the event.

"I'm sure he will give Haile a good run for his money and it's good to have already signed up two world class performers for this year's meeting."