GARRETT HEATH will return to Scotland to defend his title in the Great Edinburgh International XCountry next month.

Minnesotan Heath, 32, has been victorious three times in a row in the mud, grass and hills around Arthur’s Seat in Scotland’s capital, and will return on January 7 to defend his 8km title in the team event between USA, Britain and Europe.

Farah’s defeat at the beginning of the year proved not to have an adverse effect on the Briton’s season, as he defended his 10,000m and 5,000m Olympic gold medals in Rio De Janeiro.

The 33-year-old celebrated his own hat-trick, in September’s Great North Run, but in a year where everything generally went the way of Farah, failure to beat Heath in Edinburgh 11 months ago leaves Britain’s greatest distance runner with a score to settle - if selected to the British squad - on January 7.

Heath was a surprise winner of the 4km event in 2014 and repeated the trick a year later over the same distance. But few expected Heath, a 1,500m specialist, to finish on top of the field in the 8km team event, which included Farah and experienced cross-country schemers Callum Hawkins and Ross Millington.

The amiable American, now based in Seattle, is used to confounding the odds, and is looking forward to returning to Scotland as he bids to make it four wins on the trot.

He said of his 2016 experience: “To beat Mo Farah, who I respect so much and has been so dominant in the sport these last few years, was a pretty exhilarating moment.

“I love competing in the mud, snow, and cold of cross country so having the chance to race some of the best in the world on the course in Edinburgh with a great crowd cheering you on is an absolute blast.

“Plus, to do it in the US uniform as part of the team competition only makes it more special.”

The Great Edinburgh International XCountry consists of four separate events and pits the best of Team GB& NI against Europe and the USA.

Athletes compete across four races; the junior men’s 6km, the junior women’s 4km, senior men’s 8km and senior women’s 6km, with the overall winning team determined by the best aggregate finishing positions of the six best placed athletes in the senior category, as well as the four best placed athletes in the junior races.

The event will also see the return of the innovative International Mixed Relay event which will see national teams of four (two men and two women) compete in a 4x1k challenge for the Stewart Cup.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “We are delighted to support the Great Edinburgh International XCountry in 2017 and look forward to seeing thousands of keen runners in action alongside many world-class athletes competing in the their first event of the year.
 
“Not only do events like this encourage people to be more active, they promote Scotland’s incredible abundance of natural outdoor facilities, demonstrating our status as the perfect stage for events to a worldwide audience.”

The Great Edinburgh International XCountry is televised live on BBC from 13:15 on BBC One and is part of a New Year festival for runners of all abilities held in Holyrood Park, next to the Scottish Parliament.

The popular Great Edinburgh Winter Run, held on a scenic 5km course that loops around Arthur's Seat, provides the public with a perfect opportunity to blow off the New Year cobwebs before watching the world's best test themselves in the international cross country races.

Entry to the Great Winter Run is available at greatrun.org/winter