by John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- They are the best neighbours in running town of Iten in Kenya, but Mary Keitany and Edna Kiplagat are the worst of enemies on the racing course.
That will be exhibited in Newcastle on Sunday as the mother of all battles between Keitany and Kiplagat shapes up at the Bupa Great North Run, a 21km half marathon race.
Throw in Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba and the faint hearted will have to look away.
Keitany, who returned to competition in May after giving birth to her second child Samantha in Ottawa, is keen to reassert her dominance.
The result will give answer whether Keitany is on the right course towards her first marathon since London Olympic Games.
"I train hard and put all my focus on the task ahead. I have only had one race in Ottawa in Canada and it went well. But there was no big threat from established athletes. The Bupa Great North Run will be the first main race for me in my rehabilitation campaign as I return to active athletics," said Keitany Tuesday in Iten.
It may happen still this year or next spring. Her coach Gabriele Nicola is impressed with her progress so far.
"Rebuilding of her athletic-engine is now completed, she is training totally as top-athlete in last two months and Great North Run is so important to understand really if her engine is absolutely on the right way and if correct to go on 42km still this season or to be postponed for early 2015.
"A talent like Mary can't go for a marathon if not ready," he said. The Great North Run will be an incredible duel between Keitany, Dibaba and Kiplagat.
"I am really excited and honoured to be able to compete with Edna and Tirunesh. It will be a race for sure spectacular and I feel really okay and hope to give my best," Keitany said.
"Thinking about Newcastle, I feel very relaxed because I will not be going for any particular goals but first of all to understand how my body will answer to a fast pace for 21k. The rest will fall into place," she said.
Only four women have won the elite women's races at the Bupa Great North Run and the London Marathon in the same year.
If Kiplagat succeeded on Sept. 7, she would be following in the footsteps of two British greats and two fellow Kenyans: Liz McColgan in 1996, Joyce Chepchumba in 1999, Paula Radcliffe in 2003 and Priscah Jeptoo in 2013.
She will also be looking to make amends after missing out on victory by a narrow margin in this race two years ago, when she finished second to Olympic 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba.
Kiplagat will be facing one of the world's fastest ever marathon runners as organisers have also secured the appearance of Mary Keitany.
The 32-year-old Kenyan won the London Marathon in 2011 and 2012 and is the second-fastest marathon runner in history.
Only Britain's world record-holder Paula Radcliffe has run faster than the 2:18:38 that Keitany clocked in the 2012 edition of the London Marathon.
Keitany is also a former world record-holder for the half marathon, clocking 1:05:50 in Ras Al Khaimah three years ago.
After taking a break to have her second child, Keitany returned to winning ways earlier this year with a 31:22 victory over 10km in Ottawa.