Reigning world marathon record-holder Paul Tergat is aiming to chalk up a second success at the BUPA Great North Run on October 1.
The 37-year-old Kenyan was sidelined from competing in the race through injury a year ago and is under no illusions that winning again will not be easy.
The 2001 champion is in the first wave of star names running in the Tyneside classic and it includes three of the world's greatest distance runners.
Italy's Stefano Baldini, the Olympic marathon gold medallist, joins Jaouad Gharib, the Moroccan winner of a second successive world title over the distance last summer, in the field for the 13.1-mile event.
The trio of superstars, with more names to be confirmed later, promise to make the world's biggest half-marathon race another keenly-contested affair.
Tergat is delighted to be returning to the North-east after a hamstring injury caused him to pull out last year. "I'm happy to come to Newcastle and compete in what will be my final serious race before my autumn marathon," said Tergat, a runaway winner by over a minute five years ago. "I was disappointed to miss last year through injury, so I'm really looking forward to the race."
Tergat is unfazed that Baldini and Gharib will be two of his main rivals and added: "I've competed and won there before, so I know the course and I am looking forward to what should be a great race."
Matthew Turnbull, responsible for recruiting elite athletes for the event, confirmed the three big signings after attending the IAAF Super Grand Prix meeting in Lausanne on Tuesday night.
He said: "The most positive sign for me is the fact that athletes are actually requesting a place in the race, which says plenty for its global reputation."
Last September, Zersenay Tadesse produced what was the world's fastest half-marathon time of 59 minutes 05 seconds, until earlier this year it was beaten by Ethiopian ace Haile Gebrselassie in the United States.