Double Olympic champion. European and World Championships gold medallist. BOA Olympic athlete of the year. Recipient of a CBE for his contribution to British athletics. As his career progresses the number of plaudits collected by Mo Farah seems destined to ever increase. Having already reached the pinnacle of middle-distance running, winning gold medals in both the 5000m and 10000m in each of the major tournaments he has entered for the past three years, Farah might be forgiven for prolonging his success at familiar distances. However such is his drive and ambition, Farah has since set his sights on transitioning from middle distance to long distance races, and his victory in Sunday’s Great North Run represents the first step on what he and his many fans hope to be the road to further achievement.
Farah’s victory, the first from a British competitor in 29 years, included a British record for the half marathon. Pushed by training partner Mike Kigan, the Kenyan staying with Farah until the final 200m when the Briton began to pull away, and even then Kigan looked to close the gap as the pair approached the finish line. However Farah, already beginning to celebrate, used a quick turn of pace in the final few metres to emerge victorious and earn his first major win in a long distance race. Achieving a personal best of exactly one hour, bettering his time from last years race where he was pipped to the post in the final straight by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, Farah was quick to praise the pace of his training partner, who he credited with the pace of their run, saying “Mike kept on pushing and I wanted to hang on in there … I was surprised at how well he was running”.
Though evidently thrilled with his latest victory, for Farah winning the Great North Run will likely further ratify his desire to advance his career into long distance running, and his belief that such a transition might prove fruitful. He was further buoyed by a solid performance at the London Marathon, where he posted an English record time of 2:08:01, narrowly outside Welshman Steve Jones’ British record of 2:07:13 in his first race of that length. Ultimately finishing eighth, Farah was encouraged in his aspirations for success at long distance, and his Great North Run performance may spur him to improve in next years event.
Patronising the Great North Run for the second time, Farah was joined by fellow winner Mary Keitany of Kenya, who posted a course record time of 1:05:39, the London Marathon winner just one second quicker than the 2003 performance of Britain’s Paula Radcliffe. Also grabbing headlines was amateur runner Tracy Crammond, who with a time of 3:22:06 became the millionth person to cross the finish line of the Great North Run, 33 years after its inception in 1981.
With the Great North Run becoming the first feather in Mo Farah’s long distance cap, ever more determined, he aims to continue his already illustrious career by combining his existing middle distance prowess with improved performances over long races. With fast-developing stamina, demonstrable consistency, an aptitude for intelligent and controlled racing and a flair for sprint finishes Farah has all the physical attributes necessary to succeed at long distance, and the ambition and determination he has shown throughout his career suggest he possesses every mental strength required as well. Mo Farah, already a popular and high-achieving figure in British athletics, seems only destined for greater success.
What further steps might Mo Farah take to ensure future successes in both middle and long distance races?