Dejene Berhanu is a late replacement for world marathon record holder Paul Tergat in Sunday’s BUPA Great North Run in the UK.
The 25-year-old Ethiopian won the race two years ago when his time of 59 minutes, 37 seconds was then the fastest half-marthon performance witnessed on British soil.
Last year, Berhanu finished runner-up to Zersenay Tadesse as the Eritrean lowered his record performance to 59mins 05secs – at the time a world best time.
Now Berhanu has jumped at the opportunity to return for a third successive appearance after Tergat pulled out earlier in the week, citing lack of fitness to do himself justice in a race he won in 1991.
Matthew Turnbull, elite athletes director for the world’s biggest half-marathon with a restricted entry ceiling of 50,000 runners, also revealed Rodgers Rop would be in the field.
The 30-year-old Kenyan is best remembered for achieving a unique double in 2002 when he became the first athlete to win both the Boston and New York marathons in the same year.
“He also took third place in the Great North Run before that triumph in New York, so like Berhanu, will not be entering into the unknown over the tough course,” said Turnbull.
Turnbull believes the pair’s addition will prove testing to the reigning Olympic and world marathon champions from Italy and Morocco, Stefano Baldini and Jaouad Gharib.
But he is equally adamant that South African Hendrick Ramaala chasing a third GNR success, Wilberforce Talel of Kenya and the USA’s Dathan Ritzenhein, will also figure in a seven-man chase for the title.
“Now that Tergat will be an absentee, it is building up into a much more open race and I wouldn’t like to predict a winner,” said Turnbull.
The presence of the overseas stars will prove a formidable test for Jon Brown the British number one, running his first serious race following injury, since last November’s New York Marathon.