Antrim Coast Half Marathon: Sixty-minute barrier under threat as African stars take on GB and Ireland hopefuls

Sir Mo Farah 'delighted' to return as Antrim Coast Half Marathon ambassador
Antrim Coast Half Marathon
Venue: Larne Date: Saturday, 28 August Start: 08:00 BST
Coverage: Live from 07:45 on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport Northern Ireland website

Sunday's Antrim Coast Half Marathon is being tipped to produce the first sub-60 minute run for the distance on Irish soil as African stars mix it with Irish and British hopefuls.

Mo Farah's injury means his involvement is confined to being event ambassador but the men's field remains strong.

Ethiopia's Jemal Yimer, eighth on the all-time list with a 58:33 clocking, heads the men's contenders

His compatriot Yalemzerf Yehualaw leads the women's entries.

Yehualaw's 64:40 set in Istanbul five months ago was the fourth fastest women's half marathon in history and she professed herself very happy with the flat nature of the scenic Antrim Coast course when she did a training spin on Friday morning along with race organiser, former Olympic 800m runner James McIlroy, who was on his bike.

The men's field in a race which will be live on the BBC Sport Northern Ireland website and the BBC iPlayer includes Ireland's recent Tokyo Olympian Stephen Scullion who will be returning to competition after dropping out in the searing heat of Sapporo three weeks ago.

His fellow Irish Olympians Paul Pollock was also scheduled to compete on Sunday but has had to pull out because of illness.

Stephen Scullion (left) congratulates Mo Farah after his men's win in last year's Antrim Coast Half Marathon
Stephen Scullion (left) set a Northern Ireland half marathon record of 61:08 when finishing fourth behind Farah in last year's race and the Irish Olympian will compete again around Larne on Sunday

Scullion set his Northern Ireland record of 61:08 when finishing fourth in the event a year ago while Pollock notably showed his pedigree over the distance five years ago when he ran the race of his life to finish 14th at the World Half Marathon Championship in Cardiff when bronze medal winner Farah was the only European to finish ahead of him.

Britain's Marc Scott, after competing over 10,000 in Tokyo, will move up in distance to race on the course which starts in Larne before making it way out to Ballygally and back while his compatriot Scott Overall is also in the field.

Farah clocked 60 minutes and 27 seconds to win last year's inaugural event but the greater depth in Sunday's men's field - which includes Kenyan Shadrack Kimining - makes McIlroy believe that the 60-minute barrier will be breached on this occasion.

Kimining, 26, set his personal best of 59:27 in Houston last year and is Yimer's regular training partner.

"We have five men in the field who have run under 60 minutes and getting under the 60-minute barrier is one of the objectives for the race," said event director McIlroy, who successfully lobbied for this year's event to have the prestigious World Athletics Label status.

Unlike last year, the 2021 event will also have a mass participation race in addition to the elite competitors who will start proceedings at 08:00 BST.

The BBC coverage will continue on through to the mass participation event following the elite races.

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