Tariku Bekele aims for Ethiopian hat-trick in Birmingham

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Tariku Bekele will be hoping to emulate his fellow Ethiopian’s success this weekend at the Bupa Great Birmingham Run.

Bekele has big shoes to fill with his brother, Kenenisa, and the great Haile Gebrselassie dominating the Great North and Scottish Runs in recent weeks.

The Ethiopian is one of the headline names for the event after collecting 10,000 metre bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, but on paper, his time wouldn’t even get him in the top three.

Bekele holds a half marathon best of 62.59, set in 2012, but with stiff competition will no doubt have to better his clocking to contest for pole position on Sunday.

The 26-year-old competed over the distance just two weeks ago in Lisbon, but his 63.21 clocking and eighth place finish will surely boost the confidence of his rivals.

Challenging him over the 13.1 mile course will be Collis Birmingham, Abdi Abdirahman and Great Britain’s Chris Thompson.

All three boast quicker times than Bekele, with Birmingham topping the lot with his 60.56 minute best set in Marugame earlier this year.

The Australian competed in the Bupa Great North Run just over one month ago, but his finishing time of 64.28 didn ‘t reflect the shape he showed in February.

Thompson heads into Sunday ‘s race as the second fastest on paper on the back of his 61 minute clocking set at the Bupa Great North Run in 2012.

The Aldershot athlete recently competed in the Great Scottish Half Marathon where he scooped fifth place in 64.49, some way of the form he showed last year.

At 36 years of age, Abdirahman’s fitness doesn’t appear to be letting off and he could be a serious contender for Sunday’s title.

The American salvaged what had been a disappointing year blighted by injury and illness with a time of 62.57 at the US Half Marathon Championships, followed by a bronze medal at the US 20km Championships last month.

Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko is somewhat of an unknown quantity on the roads, and although the 21-year-old has slipped under the radar heading into Sunday’s event, he could take the more experienced athletes by surprise.

Ayeko reached the 10,000 metre finals at both the Olympic and world championships and will make his half marathon debut in Birmingham.

Gemma Steel: Photo by AdamKR via Flickr  Gemma Steel will head into Sunday’s race brimming with confidence after a successful couple of months on the roads.

The Charnwood AC athlete finished second at the Falmouth Road Race in USA in August, followed by victory at the Great Yorkshire Run the subsequent month.

Steel won the event in 2011 in 72.21, since then though, she has whittled her best down to 70.46 at the Great North Run last year, with a sub-70 minute half marathon definitely within her reach this weekend.

Contesting Steel for the title will be Olga Kotovska, Lauren Howarth, Elle Baker and Natalia Solovyeva.

Kotovska and Solovyeva will be relatively unknown to the Birmingham crowds, but with personal bests of 72.19 and 73.49, the pair could be strong medal contenders.

An injury ridden track season forced Howarth out of action over the summer, but the 23-year-old is back in action this weekend with hopes to improve on last years performance.

The Leigh Harrier athlete debuted at the half marathon in Birmingham last year clocking 83.30, but after a fantastic sixth place finish over 3,00 metres at the European Indoors in March, and victory in the Great Ireland Run in April, Howarth will have her sights set on lowering her time on Sunday.

Making up the British trio will be half marathon novice Baker. The Stockport athlete represented Great Britain at this years World Cross Country Championships, and holds a handy 10km best of 32.42.