Newly crowned European champion Hayley Yelling-Higham faces an awesome task when facing Tirunesh Dibaba at the Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country in the New Year. Yelling-Higham just 12 months after coming out of retirement stunned her rivals with her runaway success at the recent Euro championships in Dublin where she won by almost 50 metres. Now she lines up against Dibaba arguably the world's current greatest women's distance runner and winner of three World Cross Country titles, the last success occurring at the 2008 championships also staged in Edinburgh's Holyrood Park. Ethiopia's reigning Olympic 5000 metres and 10000m champion on her return to the venue on January 9 will start as favourite and add to the victory she achieved at the inaugural race in 2005.
Yelling-Higham insists it is not her intention to again pursue a full time running career quickly pointing out that the World Championships next March don't figure in her plans.
"I might do a few more races and see how I'm doing but I'm not looking as far as the World Cross or anything," the 35-year-old veteran said after adding another gold medal following her victory in 2004. "I'm just enjoying my athletics and not putting any pressure on myself. It seems to be working."
Dibaba's younger sister 18-year-old Genzebe who has won the last two World Junior cross country crowns is expected to be a strong contender in the six kilometres race while Freya Murray leads the Scottish challenge.
The meeting will feature a titanic clash in the men's competition where six-time world cross champion Kenenisa Bekele goes head-to-head with fellow Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam who succeeded him with his victory in Amman in March.
Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer at EventScotland, the national events agency who sponsor the event, said: "The Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country is one of the biggest events on the world athletics calendar and this is reflected in the impressive line up of athletes entering for the 2010 race. To see Great Britain's Hayley Yelling- Higham sign up after her recent and remarkable comeback to the world of cross country is very exciting and we hope to see another exemplary performance from her in Edinburgh next month. Double Olympic medallist Dibaba will also be a great crowd pleaser. As one of the most successful athletes in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, she'll certainly be one to watch on the day.
"The broadcast footage from this event reaches well over a million people around the world, showcasing Scotland and highlighting the nation's credentials as a destination for world class athletics events. Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat provides a sensational backdrop for the Edinburgh Cross Country and with an increasingly impressive line up for 2010 we're looking forward to a good turnout of spectators on the day."
The event is free to spectate in Holyrood Park or you can catch all the action live on BBC ONE from 1pm - 2.30pm.
The Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country rounds off a fantastic day of running in Holyrood Park which starts with thousands of runners of all abilities taking part in the Bupa Junior Great Winter Run and the Bupa Great Winter Run.
Entries for both events are still open, for more information visit http://www.greatrun.org