Athletics: Cram faces speed test over 5,000m: Briton has to prove he can last the pace at his newly adopted distance

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The Independent Online
THE MAN who will test the validity of Steve Cram as a 5,000 metres runner today had few questions upon his arrival here, the venue for the BUPA International Festival of Road Running. On learning of the field in the 5km race, Khalid Skah smiled. Then he asked about the course record . . .

The target for the Moroccan who won the Olympic 10,000m title amid fierce controversy last summer is 13min 39sec, the time recorded on the gently undulating course around Duthie Park by Moses Tanui of Kenya. But interest in the televised race centres on how Cram, who finally said goodbye to 1500m and the mile as his competitive distances last season, will cope against a man who was fifth in the world 5,000m lists last year and has a finishing kick that the British runner would have struggled to match in his heyday.

The move up in distance was hardly a leap into the unknown for the world mile record-holder. Four years ago, on his home territory in Jarrow, he won the UK 5,000m title in 13:28.58, finishing clear of a field which included Eamonn Martin. He is capable of that kind of performance again, judging by his time of 13:36 at altitude before Christmas while training in South Africa. But this is a high profile examination for him.

In the women's 5km race, Scotland's high-profile women, Liz McColgan and Yvonne Murray, meet at a distance which falls between their speciality distances, although it may suit Murray better given McColgan's marathon-orientated work through the winter. The presence of Catherina McKiernan, Ireland's world cross-country silver medallist, will ensure that neither fall into the trap of regarding the event as a private battle.

McColgan returned from training in Albuquerque on Wednesday morning and gave herself all of an hour off before hitting the roads around her home at Carnoustie, near Arbroath. Such has been her application in the last month that she is now 6lb lighter than she was for the London Marathon on 18 April. 'It's the first time I've trained at altitude,' she said. 'It will be interesting to see what it has done for me.'

Murray has also profited in preparation on the other side of the Atlantic. Following her victory in the world indoor championship 3,000m, she won a 5km road race in Los Angeles in 90 degrees of heat, recording 15:24. She checked into her Aberdeen hotel with the intention of remaining out of contact with her boyfriend and family until after the race. Clearly a serious race.

Two of Britain's best 800m runners, Curtis Robb and David Sharpe, meet over a mile. If things go well for Robb, whose long-term potential lies at that distance, he may consider making his moving up from two laps this season.

Neck injuries suffered by Carl Lewis in a car accident three months ago will prevent the Olympic champion from long jumping this year.

Lewis's manager Joe Douglas said the athlete - three times an Olympic champion in the long jump - would concentrate on the 100m and 200m this season, and attempt to compete in both events at the world championships in Stuttgart this summer.

'He's fine now but it was less strenuous for him if he didn't have to worry about take-offs and landings for a while,' Douglas said. Lewis had missed only a few days of training and Douglas called his decision 'precautionary'.