North East ready for Great North Run and City Games

By Steve CramBBC athletics commentator
Watch the Great North Run on Sunday

The Great North Runexternal-link is synonymous with the North East of England and it has been a fantastic success over the last 30 years.

But athletics should be constantly trying to widen its appeal and the Great City Gamesexternal-link is helping to do that.

When it first came out, the City Games concept was fresh and different, giving fans a close-up view of the athletes from new angles.

But you have to be careful not to give it too much kudos. It's a Twenty20 version of athletics, not the same as winning a World Championship medal.

It's crowd-pleasing but we shouldn't say it's important regardless of whether Great Britain and Northern Ireland beat the United States on Saturday. It's about trying to showcase the best talents we have.

Newly-crowned world 5,000m champion Mo Farah is the big British athlete on show on Saturday.

At Thursday's media conference for the final Diamond League meeting of the season in Brussels, people were saying how they understood why he wasn't there.

Mo wants to be part of a big weekend in his home country and he will compete in the two-mile race.

The Americans have got a pretty strong team and Bernard Lagat will be tough to beat in the mile.

Hannah England, who won 1500m silver at the World Championships, will be up against fellow Brit Jenny Meadows in the women's mile race.

Bronze-medalist Andy Turner will be one to watch out for in the 110m hurdles. He goes up against David Oliver, who finished fourth in Daegu.

The City Games suits hurdles races because there is lots of drama, with hurdles flying, as they were in Daegu..

The Great North Run follows on Sunday and there are 54,000 people scheduled to runexternal-link the half marathon that is a recognised event on a worldwide scale, taking in such landmarks as the Tyne Bridge.

It has changed in nature over the past 10 years, becoming a more international event but there are probably few people in the North East who haven't run it or know somebody who has.

Events like the Great North Run and the London Marathon have had a huge impact on running and you now see 10km and 5km runs taking place all around the country almost every weekend.

From a British perspective, Jo Pavey and Mara Yamauchi are the big names to watch out for in the women's race.

They missed the World Championships and the clock is ticking in terms of qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic marathon.

There are not many opportunities to do so in the next year and they have got to be careful how they plan the next 12 months. They will be looking for a good solid performance and won't want to get knocked by a poor run.

Expect them to be looking at the clock rather than each other or where they finish although, having said that, if they run well, they will be there or thereabouts.

There are a couple of former champions in the field in the form of Ethiopia's defending champion Berhane Adere, who also won in 2006, and Portugal's Jessica Augusto, who was the 2009 winner. Commonwealth Games marathon champion Irene Jerotich of Kenya is also a threat in what should be an open race.

In the men's race, there are no British athletes to make a case for and Kenya's Emmanuel Mutai, who won this year's London Marathon, starts as favourite.

The Kenyans have an embarrassment of riches but they don't always want to run in the World Championships as they are not as lucrative as the marathons in London, New York and Berlin.

It will also be great to see two-time Great North Run winner Martin Lel, of Kenya, and Morocco's double marathon world champion Jaouad Gharib going at it.

Fantastic Farah wins world gold (UK users only)