McColgan confident she can conquer North test

Liz McColgan is ready to see off one of the strongest line-ups she has ever faced as she bids to extend her BUPA Great North Run domination on Sunday.

McColgan will be bidding to win the half-marathon from Newcastle to South Shields for a fourth time - and third year in a row.

But out to stop her will be her fellow Scot Yvonne Murray, the reigning world cross-country champion, Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia, and Belgium's Marlene Renders, one of the fastest marathon runners this year.

"This is one of the toughest fields I have ever seen for any race - not just a half-marathon," McColgan said. "But I am prepared for it.

"Preparations have gone really well, although I have been disappointed in some of the results. They have not given a true indication because I feel fitter than ever."

Tulu, the former Olympic 10,000 metres champion, will provide the sternest test for McColgan, although Murray is keen to tackle her again.

Murray finished fourth in the race last year after suffering with cramp, but is confident of going better this weekend as he builds towards a likely debut over the marathon in London next year.

"It should be another great race on Sunday because Liz and I bring out the best in each other," she said.

In the men's race, Britain could see its first winner since Steve Kenyon in 1985. The favourites are likely to be Paul Evans and the European cross- country champion, Jon Brown, who are using the race as preparation for next month's Chicago Marathon.

They will face the defending champion, Benson Masya, who was last night granted a late entry to the event he has won four times. "How could we say no to such a great champion and loyal supporter of the Great North Run?" asked the race director, John Caine.

Evans, runner-up 12 months ago, also welcomed the participation of the Kenyan, who in 1994 set the British all-comers' half-marathon record with a time of 60min 2sec on the fast Newcastle to South Shields course.

He said: "I still intend taking the title. But I must say I'm delighted Benson will be in the field. It is only right he should defend his title.

"It will make the race more difficult for me and the rest of the boys, but with him there I am sure it will add to what is always an exciting occasion."