Vernon keen to take Gebrselassie scalp in Portsmouth

Andy Vernon and Mo Farah do battle in the European Championships in Switzerland
Andy Vernon and Mo Farah do battle in the European Championships in Switzerland
Victoria Ayriss on her way to winning the series. Picture: Ian Burnett Photography

Dramatic finish to Portsmouth Duathlon Series

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Andy Vernon is hoping to take the scalp of athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie in the Great South Run on Sunday.

So far, Mo Farah and Gary Staines are the only British winners of the world’s premier 10-mile race, which first started in 1990.

But Vernon, who grew up in Stubbington, has proved he is a genuine contender to follow in their footsteps.

He was the top British finisher on his debut in the event last year, coming home fourth.

His excellent form has continued throughout 2014.

Vernon picked up a silver medal in the 10,000m and a bronze in the 5,000m at the European Championships, in Switzerland.

After such a busy summer schedule which also included the Commonwealth Games, Vernon is not putting any pressure on himself for Sunday.

But he would love to build on his impressive debut in tough conditions last year and record a memorable home success.

‘It would be great for a Portsmouth boy to win,’ said Vernon.

‘I would love to win on home turf. It would be special.

‘It’s a good event – last year, the last two miles were a bit horrific with the wind, though.

‘I’ve only done it once, so my one and only experience of the race so far was a bit mixed.

‘The first eight miles were great but then the last two were really hard.’

Vernon will be battling some top names in Portsmouth on Sunday.

Much of the focus will be on Gebrselassie, who is regarded as the greatest distance runner of all-time.

But the 41-year-old former world and Olympic champion has not had the ideal preparation after being forced to abandon the Great Scottish Run recently.

Vernon said: ‘I don’t have a particular aim for it this year.

‘I know Gebrselassie is doing it. He’s always been a big figurehead in previous years.

‘He’s getting a bit older now, so I don’t know exactly what sort of shape he’s in at the moment.

‘But that would be a nice scalp to have.

‘I don’t know who else is in there. It depends on who they have got.’

One of the highlights for the thousands of runners who tackle the famous city course is the chance to take in Portsmouth’s top attractions on the way round.

For Vernon it is special to have the chance to compete within the city.

He said: ‘You go past the Spinnaker Tower and the Victory, so you see the sights.

‘It is a race within the city which is good. I enjoyed it last year.’

Vernon’s next big target is the European Cross Country Championships in December, in Bulgaria where he hopes to improve on last year’s bronze.

He said: ‘I have got lots of bronzes and silvers at the European Championships now but never got the gold yet.

‘I got a bronze medal last year. I’d love to go two better this time and get the gold medal.’