Elite athletes line up for the 2021 Great North Run

Great Comeback 1

It will be all change in the elite races in 2021 – on a brand-new course, there will be two first-time winners over the 13.1mile distance. The last time this happened was in 2014, when Sir Mo Farah won the first of his six Great North Run titles, while Mary Keitany took the first of her three victories in South Shields.

With neither Farah nor Keitany involved this year, a new winner will be crowned on Tyneside – here’s a look at the ones to keep an eye on this Sunday.

WOMEN’S RACE

EILISH MCCOLGAN

McColgan is making her half marathon debut on Tyneside this weekend, and while she is an unknown quantity over 13.1miles, her distance running pedigree is clear to see having excelled at 5,000m and 10,000m. The 30-year-old Scot, who represented Great Britain in last month’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, stepped up to the 10-mile distance for 2019’s Great South Run and took a memorable victory on the South Coast, an event which her mum Liz had won previously. McColgan, the Scottish 5,000m record holder, will be gunning for victory in a race also previously won by her mum – McColgan senior won the Great North Run on three occasions in 1992, 1995 and 1996.

HELLEN OBIRI

Another Great North Run debutant, Obiri will be a leading contender for the half marathon. The Kenyan is a highly decorated athlete, winning the second of her Olympic silver medals over the 5,000m in Tokyo last month. Obiri is also a two-time 5,000m World champion and took gold in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018. She is no stranger to road racing in the UK, having won the Great Manchester Run 10K in 2019. Victory for Obiri would continue the record of a Kenyan winning the Great North Run every year since 2013 and an African dominance of the race dating back to 2010.

MOLLY SEIDEL

Seidel competes in her first Great North Run just a month after taking a sensational bronze medal in the Olympic marathon in Sapporo. In a stacked field featuring eventual gold and silver medallists Peres Jepchirchir and 2019 Great North Run winner Brigid Kosgei, Seidel took third place in what was only her third marathon, becoming the first American woman to medal in the marathon since 2004. The 27-year-old has a 69.20 half marathon PB to her name and has previously represented USA at the invitational Great Edinburgh International XCountry at Holyrood.

MEN’S RACE

GALEN RUPP

American Rupp will look to take some pointers from former training partner Sir Mo Farah, who has tasted victory in the Great North Run on six previous occasions. The 35-year-old memorably finished second to Farah at the 2012 London Olympics 10,000m final, before stepping up to the marathon at Rio 2016 where he took bronze. His marathon career continued in promising fashion, winning the 2017 Chicago Marathon and finishing second in the Boston Marathon the same year. Rupp, with a half-marathon PB of 59.47, finished eighth in the Olympic marathon in Sapporo last month, three minutes behind champion Eliud Kipchoge.

BASHIR ABDI

Another training partner of Farah, the Somali-born Belgian finished third in 2018’s Great North Run and followed that up with a fifth place on Tyneside a year later – the last time the event was held. Since then, Abdi has outlined his great potential over the marathon distance, taking the bronze medal at the Olympic marathon in Sapporo last month. Abdi’s PB of 61.50 should make him one of the frontrunners in Sunday’s race, although Abdi will be new to the modified course which will not feature the steep descent before the final mile which has caught many an athlete out.

MARC SCOTT

Sunday will be Scott’s third crack at the half marathon, with his previous two attempts both coming at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in Larne in 2019 and 2020. His PB of 60.35 further demonstrates the Richmond and Zetland Harrier’s potential over 13.1 miles having already excelled at the 5,000m and 10,000m distance. The Yorkshire-born athlete represented Great Britain in Tokyo, finishing sixth in the 10,000m final in the Olympic Stadium. In 2019, Scott took an impressive victory over 10 miles in the Great South Run in Portsmouth.

WHEELCHAIRS

SIMON LAWSON

The Cumbrian, who has represented Great Britain at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, returns to the Great North Run having last won the wheelchair race in 2017. The former motocross rider, who broke his spine at the age of 19 leaving him paralysed, is also taking on the London Marathon in Autumn and will warm up for the 26.2mile distance on Tyneside.

SHELLY WOODS

The three-time Paralympic medallist is no stranger to victory in the Great North Run, having taken victory on six occasions – the last coming in 2014. The Blackpool athlete finished second last time out in 2019. Woods is in good form, having won the Muller 2021 Marathon at Thruxton in May.

JADE JONES-HALL

The Middlesbrough-born 25-year-old, coached by eight-time Great North Run winner Tanni Grey-Thompson, took her own victory in the famous half marathon last time out in 2019. The 2018 Commonwealth gold medallist in the Paratriathlon took a break from competitive sport in 2020 but returns to action on Tyneside this weekend looking to defend her title.

*The Great North Run will be broadcast live on BBC Two between 09:00 – 10:00 on Sunday 12 September, and then footage will move over to BBC One until 13:30. The highlights show will be shown on Sunday evening on BBC 2 at 17:00.