London Marathon champion Tigist Tufa will head the women's field at the 2015 Morrisons Great North Run, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in England on Sunday September 13.
The 28-year-old Ethiopian Tufa, a surprise winner of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, will once again prove her road running credentials on British soil at the 2015 edition of the world's leading half marathon.
This time Tigist Tufa will have European cross-country champion Gemma Steel of Great Britain to contend with over the 13.1 mile half marathon distance from Newcastle upon Tyne to South Shields.
At last year’s Great North Run, Steel claimed a second place finish behind two-time London Marathon winner Mary Keitany, clocking 1:08:13 ahead of Ethiopia's reigning Olympic marathon champion Tiki Gelana and Kenyans Caroline KIlel, the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon silver medallist, and two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat.
Tigist Tufa beat Keitany by 18 seconds to win this year's London Marathon in 2:23:22, and also boasts lifetime bests of 2:21:52 for the full marathon distance and 70:03 for the half marathon.
Steel has become accustomed to mixing it with the best Ethiopians and Kenyans on the road, having finished runner up to Ethiopia's Olympic 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenya's African Championship 10,000m bronze medallist Betsy Saina in the last two editions of the Morrisons Great Manchester Run.
“It's something that's given me a lot of confidence,” the Loughborough-based Steel confessed. “Not many British athletes can say they can mix it with the top Kenyans and Ethiopians on the road and it's not something I ever thought I'd see myself doing.
“There's the Kenyans and Ethiopians, and then there's me. It's a good position to be in.”
Steel's rising road running stock has been pointing her towards a future at the marathon and she is contemplating an autumn debut at the 26.2 miles distance.
“Everyone says the marathon is what I should be aiming at but I am still wary,” she said. “The marathon is a long way. It took me a few years to master the half marathon and the full marathon is a different animal altogether.”