World 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot makes her first competitive appearance in seven weeks as she takes on Britain’s European 10,000m winner Jo Pavey over 10 miles at the Great South Run, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (25).
The 32-year-old Kenyan enjoyed a successful return to the sport this summer following time out for the birth of her first child, taking her fourth world title in the Chinese capital in 31:41.31, and completed her track season with a 3000m appearance at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich in early September.
Cheruiyot will therefore be looking to transfer her track form to the roads of the English south coast as she steps up in distance, tackling 10 miles for the first time in a career in which she has rarely contested races further than 10km.
Pavey, who enjoyed her own golden summer just over a year ago with victory in Zurich at the European Championships and the winner of this race in 2012, has raced sparingly in 2015.
Having opted against any track outings, the 42-year-old will make just her sixth appearance of the year, with her most recent result an impressive 1:09:58 personal best for fourth place at the recent Great Scottish Half Marathon in Glasgow earlier this month.
Hoping to challenge both Cheruiyot and Pavey will be reigning European cross country champion Gemma Steel, who described herself following last year’s edition of the race as “forever the bridesmaid”, after narrowly losing to Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira in a sprint finish.
The 29-year-old Briton edged out Pavey for third place in Glasgow and also took second place at the Great North Run half marathon in September, so will be confident in her own ability last the distance.
Elsewhere in the elite field there is a wealth of experience of racing on Britain’s roads, with Kenyan duo Betsy Saina and Doris Changeiywo and Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar.
Changeiywo was second to Edna Kiplagat in the 2015 Great Scottish Half Marathon, but ahead of both Pavey and Steel, while Saina took victory over 10km in Manchester back in May in 31:49.
Aguilar took second place last week at the Great Birmingham Run half marathon.
Kipsiro heads the men’s field
Uganda’s 2014 Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Moses Kipsiro is another who has enjoyed previous victories on British shores.
He heads a competitive men’s field that also includes Kenya’s 2013 World Cross Country Champion Japhet Korir and his countrymen Martin Mathathi as well as 2013 Great South run winner Emmanuel Bett.
Kipsiro struggled in his two appearances on the track this summer, failing to break 13:30 for 5000m at IAAF Diamond League meetings in New York and Lausanne, but showed better form on the roads this month when he won the Great Scottish Half Marathon in 1:02:18.
The 2007 world 5000m bronze medallist will, however, face a stern test in Portsmouth, with notoriously windy conditions in the last mile of the race favouring those with previous Great South Run experience.
Bett, now 32, has that in abundance following his victory two years ago and with a half marathon personal best of 1:00:08 set in March this year backed up by a 1:01:01 performance in Copenhagen last month, he also has strong current form.
Korir, who won over 10km in both Dublin and Wurzburg back in April and took third in Glasgow earlier this month and so is also contender, while the form of 2007 world 10,000m bronze medallist Mathathi is more of an unknown quantity, having not raced since a 1:02:40 half marathon back in May.
Also racing in Portsmouth are Chris Thompson, who took victory at the Great Birmingham Run last week, and the lesser-known Kenyan trio Emmanuel Kipsang, John Mnangat and Kevin Kochei.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF