PAUL Whittaker will make his half-marathon debut in Sunday’s Great North Run as he plots a course that he hopes will culminate in him earning international marathon honours.

Whittaker may only be 23 but he is already eyeing a future over 26.2 miles.

He has had an impressive 2012, breaking the 30-minute barrier for 10k on the road in February before going on to have a strong track season that saw him clock personal bests at distances from 1,500m up to 5,000m.

But despite this form, the Southend-based distance runner admits he sees his future over the longer distances.

And Sunday’s Great North Run will be his first step in that direction.

“I always do better over the longer distances,” said Whittaker.

“I don’t get the benefit from the speed work that people like Adam (Hickey) do, for example.

“I’ve been building up to this race for a while now and it’s just a case of seeing what I can do over this distance.

“I want to do a marathon in the next two or three years and I do think I can push for a Great Britain vest over that distance.

“If I can get my half-marathon PB down to 62m 30s by the time I’m 25, then that’s around about a 2h 9m/2h 10m marathon.

“But I’ve got to get my short stuff quicker and that’s why I’ve been working hard on the track.”

Whittaker is hoping for a time of about 65m 30s in Gateshead on Sunday, which is five-minute mile pace.

The field will be headed up by the current London Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang and has great strength in depth, including plenty of good British runners that should push Whittaker along.

“There’s always going to be the top guys running 60/61 minutes, but there are a lot of British guys who will be running between 63m 30s and 65m 30s and that should be good for me,” he said.