Yamauchi targets Great North glory

It just so happens that Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly have been asked to fire the starting gun to get the 30th edition of the Bupa Great North Run underway in Newcastle tomorrow morning.

The presence of Mara Yamauchi in the elite women's section of the world's biggest half-marathon should demonstrate that Britain's got world-class talent in the distance running game – happily, talent that is destined to remain British, too.

Not since 1985 has there been a British winner of the men's race – he was a Kenyon, Steve Kenyon of Salford Harriers – and with the Ethiopian phenomenon Haile Gebrselassie making his Great North debut, the prospects of that 25-year gap being bridged tomorrow are about as likely as a Geordie venturing out for a night on the Toon with a coat. Yamauchi, though, lines up with a more than fighting chance of becoming the first British winner of the elite women's race since Paula Radcliffe in 2003.

Sixth in the Beijing Olympic marathon and the second fastest women in the world at the full marathon distance in 2009, the 37-year-old has endured a troubled year to date, which has included picking up a foot problem during the summer.

Now, though, Yamauchi is back in shape and determined to lay down a marker on Tyneside ahead of the ING New York City Marathon on 7 November. "It's a fast course," she said of the Great North Run. "It'll be good to see where I'm at."

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