Mo Farah became the first British man to win the Great North Run for nearly 30 years as held off his former training partner Mike Kigen in a dramatic sprint into South Shields. And although Farah missed going under an hour for the half-marathon for the first time, he was delighted that his time of exactly 60 minutes broke his personal best by 10 seconds.
Farah’s main challengers were expected to be Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic and World marathon champion, and the Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele. But both men had been blasted off the back in a fast opening four miles which left just three men up front – Farah, Kigen and the Ugandan Thomas Ayegu.
Ayegu was dropped off at halfway which left Farah and Kigen duking it out. With three miles to go Kigen turned the screw, and Farah drifted 10 metres behind. Farah reeled him in, only for Kigen to kick again with just under a mile to go. Even when Farah went clear with 200 metres remaining, Kigen refused to accept his place and nearly caught him on the line – with both men finishing in the same time.
Afterwards Farah, the first British man to win the race since Bolton-born Steve Kenyon’s victory in 1985, admitted he didn’t expect to break his personal best. “I didn’t think I could run as fast as that,” he admitted. “No chance. But it’s great to finish the season with a win and a fast time. Even though as soon as I was about to celebrate I saw him coming at me.
“I’ve learned a lot this year,” added Farah, who said he would now be holidaying on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.”It’s been up and down but I’ve managed to put it behind me and next year I will prepare for Beijing. My aim is definitely the 10km and we’ll see what happens after that.”
In the women’s race Kenya’s Mary Keitany pipped Paula Radcliffe’s 11-year-old course record by a second to win in 1:05:39, while Britain’s Gemma Steel advertised her growing potential by finishing second in 1:08:13 – a PB of over two minutes.
The 28-year-old Steel is a late developer, who only started training seriously three years ago. The results have been impressive as she has ran a series of fast 10km times on the road all summer. This was another step up.
“I felt really comfortable for the first half of the race, and I held myself back a bit when Mary pushed on,” said Steel. “I was unfamiliar territory so I kept it steady and then pushed it for the last three miles.”
Meanwhile when Keitany – who has never been beaten in nine half-marathon races – was asked about whether she was now aiming for Radcliffe’s world marathon record, she started laughing. “I don’t know,” she said.
Credits: The Guardian