Great North Run 2013: Mo Farah Victory Far from Assured

Aidan Reynolds@@aidanreynoldsContributor IIISeptember 15, 2013

Mo Farah will be looking for victory in Sunday's Great North Run.
Mo Farah will be looking for victory in Sunday's Great North Run.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Only a very foolish person would bet against Mo Farah, but the talk around Newcastle is almost like he has already won the Great North Run. That's certainly not the case, and he actually faces an incredibly tough battle to be the first one across the line in South Shields on Sunday.

As usual, spectators will be lining the streets in support, most of whom will also be cheering for Farah to continue his dominant form that has seen him claim the 5,000-metre and 10,000-metre gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships.

However, there are two men who will be doing everything within their power to snatch victory from him in this weekend's half-marathon.

Kenenisa Bekele and Hailie Gebrselassie are formidable opponents, and Gebrselassie in particular has the edge in terms of experience. The 40-year-old has the quicker time of the three men expected to challenge for victory on Sunday, recording the 11th-fastest half-marathon in history when he set a time of 58 minutes, 55 seconds in 2006, per BBC Sport.

Gabrselassie is confident in his ability, and rightly so. When speaking to the Northern Echo, he outlined his expectations:

There is a great field and of course the women as well. It’s going to be very unique and it will be wonderful for people to watch. It is nice for us to have such a wonderful race and brilliant that we are going to take part in it.

I ran a good half marathon here in 2010 and I think Sunday will be another very good one. I think the standard of the field will make it a great run.

As reported by BBC Sport, this time is nearly a minute and a half faster than Farah's best, so Gebrselassie will push the British runner all the way. Bekele is making his half-marathon debut, so he remains an outside bet. However, the Ethiopian has two 10,000-metre Olympic gold medals and remains the world record-holder at that distance.

Farah is gearing up for competing in next year's London Marathon, so this will be a good test of his progress. The weather is expected to be poor, which will no doubt be in his favour. Nevertheless, when speaking to the Northern Echo, Farah was respectful of his legendary competitor:

It is brilliant for the sport that we have got these head-to-heads. If you put all the titles and world records and medals and everything together you see what this race is all about. Hailie is just a great.

Gebrselassie will push Farah all the way, with the great man able to dictate the pace and use his experience to make plans on the fly, based on the other runners in the field and the overall weather conditions. 

Farah will have to match him, then beat him. It's definitely not beyond Farah's capability, but those predicting an easy victory would do well to temper their enthusiasm slightly.