Legends Lead Morrisons Great Manchester Run Challenge

Great Comeback 1

British Supermum Jo Pavey and Ethiopian icon Haile Gebrselassie will lead the charge of the golden oldie brigade in the Morrisons Great Manchester Run on Sunday, 10 May.

Both Pavey, the 41-year-old mother of two who won European 10,000m gold last summer and Gebrselassie, the 42-year-old two-time Olympic 10,000m champion, face major challenges in Europe's biggest 10km road race – which will also feature Britain's six-time Paralympic gold medallist David Weir.

Pavey lines up against a trio of reigning global champions in the elite women's field of the prestigious IAAF Gold Label event:  Gebrselassie's compatriot Meseret Defar, holder of the world and Olympic 5,000m titles; 2012 Olympic marathon gold medallist Tiki Gelana, also of Ethiopia and Kenya's world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat.

Gebrselassie faces 40-year-old former world 1,500m and 5,000m champion Bernard Lagat of the USA, who will be making his 10km road race debut, former world 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia and Kenya's former marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang.

However, the big challenge on the day for the 27-time world record breaker will be to complete the course not once but twice. After taking on Lagat and co in the elite men's race, Gebrselassie will join the masses to run the course for a second time, savouring the special atmosphere of the Morrisons Great Manchester Run.

For Pavey, the 10km race will be a first taste of competitive action in 2015, following a trailblazing year in which she won Commonwealth 5,000m bronze and European 10,000m gold on the track as a 40-year-old and finished third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year poll, behind Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy.

It will be the Exeter Harrier's first major road race since 2012 and a chance for her to complete an historic hat-trick of victories. Pavey prevailed in Manchester in 2007 and 2008 and will be looking to become the first three-time winner of the elite women's section.

“I'm really excited about getting back on the road and lining up again in the Morrisons Great Manchester Run,” she said. “It's one of my favourite races and I'm looking forward to getting back into some top-class road racing again this year. 

“I very much see this year as an opportunity to mix track with road. Last year I had to focus solely on the track and really missed road racing. This year is a chance to mix the two because next year I'll have to refocus on the track again. 

“Obviously I would love to try and qualify for the Olympics in 2016, although I'm not complacent about that. It will be hard to get on the British team because there are a lot of good girls coming through.”

Pavey, who has competed in the last four Olympic Games, will be joined by a strong contingent of fellow Britons: European cross country champion Gemma Steel, who was runner up to Tirunesh Dibaba last year; former European junior cross country champion Charlotte Purdue; Scot Beth Potter, who finished fifth in the Commonwealth Games 10,000m final last summer; and Stockport Harrier Jess Coulson, winner of the 2015 Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run.

Gebrselassie, widely-regarded as the greatest distance runner of all-time, will be challenging for a sixth victory in the elite men's section, having won in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

“Manchester is one of my favourite cities in the world to race in,” said Gebrselassie. “The atmosphere, the people and the organisation are all fantastic. This time after I have competed in the elite race on May the 10th I am going to jog round the 10k again with another wave of runners.

“It will be a unique experience for me and I look forward to meeting some of those who have cheered me on before!"

Lagat, the second fastest 1,500m runner in history, has pledged to have a crack at the Over 40s Masters world record of 28 minutes 00 seconds that Gebrselassie clocked when finishing third in Manchester in 2013.

“It's a really quick time but it is good to have something to shoot at,” said Lagat. “I'm excited by the fact that I'll be running with Haile. I think I've only raced against him once before.”

The pair went head to head over 3,000m in the 2004 Boston Indoor Games, Gebrselassie winning and Lagat finishing fourth.

“I think it's awesome that we can run together one more time before I retire and before Haile retires,” said Lagat. “It's huge for the sport that we have runners still racing at the highest level into their 40s.

“I think it shows that, if you work hard and prioritise and take care of yourself, you can achieve anything you want and go on as long as you can.”

Lagat, three times winner of the world indoor 3,000m title, has competed in two 5km races on the road and in one half-marathon but 10km will be a new distance for him. 

Despite joining the ranks of the Fortysomethings in December, he remains one of the world's leading middle and long distance runners. Only last year he won a 3,000m silver medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland and during the 2015 indoor season he set six world Masters records in the space of 18 days.

Lagat has his sights on what would be a fifth Olympic appearance in Rio next year – as well as the 5,000m at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August this year.

Despite the presence of Lagat and Gebrselassie, the man to beat in the elite men's race could well be Jeilan, the Ethiopian who outsprinted Mo Farah to win the world 10,000m title in Daegu in 2011 and took 10,000m silver behind the British hero at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow.

The field features South African Stephen Mokoka, who finished third in last year's race behind Kenenisa Bekele and Kipsang, the Olympic marathon bronze medallist who finished runner up to Eliud Kipchoge in the London Marathon two weeks ago. Also in the line up are 2008 world cross country silver medallist Leonard Komon of Kenya and Ethiopian half marathon specialist Tesfaalem Mehari. The British contingent includes Andy Butchart, Lee Merien, John Beattie and Ross Millington.

Weir, the 35-year-old Londoner who won four golds in his home town Olympics three years ago (to add to the two he won in Beijing in 2008), will be looking to extend his record number of victories in the wheelchair race to seven.

Weir won his first Great Manchester title in 2004 and his sixth in 2011. His course record, 21 minutes 11 seconds, has stood since 2007.