Bupa Great North Run
Track star Mo Farah, 31, ended his trying 2014 road racing season on a winning note Sun., Sept. 7 as he won the Bupa Great North Run over the half-marathon distance in a close finish with his friend and sometime training partner Mike Kigen of Kenya.
Running the course from Newcastle Upon Thyne to South Shields in the northeast of England, the two were given the same time – 1:00:00! – although at the least Farah seemingly should have clocked a tenth or two tenths of a second faster than Kigen.
Stephen Kiprotich, 24, of Kenya finished third in 1:01:35.
Farah, the defending Olympic and World Championships 5000- and 10,000-meter champion, had suffered a bad fall during the New York City Half-Marathon earlier this year and was carted off in a wheelchair after the race. Then Britain’s favorite distance runner – maybe ever! – was royally shellacked in the London Marathon when he finished only eighth in his first attempt at the distance. So Sunday’s race served as sweet redemption for him and he became the first British runner to win this race since Steve Kenyon won it in 1985.
In Sunday’s race Farah’s main challengers were expected to be Kenya’s Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic and World marathon champion, and Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele, the Olympic 10,000-meter bronze medalist.
However, a blistering early pace over the first four miles dropped these two, leaving just three men – Farah, Kigen and Uganda’s Thomas Ayegu – at the front.
Ayegu fell back at halfway, leaving Farah and Kigen to fight it out the rest of the way – and as Kigen kept up the pressure from seven to 10 miles, with Farah in evident discomfort, it seemed the Kenyan would prevail. Indeed, on several occasions Kigen opened a gap of 10 to 20 meters, only to have Farah drag himself back on even terms each time.
A mile from the finish, the two runners, who are both represented by Pace Management, were observed chatting with each other before Farah pulled away. This led some to speculate that the Kenyan had deliberately let Farah go, but Kigen vigorously denied that.
“I was slowing because I was feeling tired,” he said later. “That’s why Mo won the race.” By the slimmest of margins, one might add, after Kigen came back at him right at the finish.
Farah explained that the two of them had been talking about speeding up over the final mile if they wanted to break the one-hour mark.
“He (Kigen) was saying, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’ But I wanted to have something left in the end. The aim was to win the race rather than run a fast time.”
Farah also admitted he had to dig deep to stay with Kigen earlier in the race.
“Mike’s a great athlete and he just kept pushing and pushing, so I was just thinking, ‘Just hang in, just hang in” so I could create more speed.
“Once we had dropped everybody I was thinking, ‘It’s just me and you,’ but he wanted to run faster and just put his foot down and kept pushing and pushing. There were … times when I was thinking, ‘Four more miles, three more miles, two more miles,’ but I just had to dig in.”
Farah’s time was his personal best for the half-marathon distance and now he heads off for a vacation, after winning gold medals in the 5- and 10,000 meters at the 2014 World Track Championships and setting two personal bests within the last few weeks – for the two miles last month and now the half-marathon.
“If you would have asked me six weeks ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d have done all that. I’ve learned you can push your body and do more. It’s great to finish the season with a win and a good time. I’ve learned a lot this year and it has been up and down. But now I want to take a break and relax and get ready for the World Championships next year.”
Kenya’s brilliant Mary Keitany, 32, was the women’s winner on Sunday as she ran a blistering 1:05:39 to better Paula Radcliffe’s 11-year-old course record by one second.
Keitany is unbeaten in nine half-marathons and has run the second fastest marathon in history.
Britain’s emerging and late-developing distance star Gemma Steel, 28, was the runner-up in 1:08:13, which was her personal best by more than two minutes.
“I felt really comfortable for the first 10 miles, then I picked it up a bit,” said Steel, who started training seriously only three years ago and has run a series of fast times on the road this year. “When I found out Mary broke the course record, I was glad I didn’t go with her. I ran a tactical race and stayed in contention – I didn’t do anything silly. I have definitely got it in me to do the marathon and this race has helped my confidence a lot.”
The third-place finisher in the women’s race was Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana, 27, who ran 1:08:45.
The mass-participation Bupa Great North Run, held each September between Newcastle upon Tyne and South Shields in the northeast of England, is the second largest half-marathon in the world. This year's race, which was held Sunday, Sept. 15, was the 33rd annual Great North Run and there were 56,000 total participants (there are several other shorter races on the program), with 41,000 of them finishing the half-marathon in windy and sometimes wet conditions. Next year the event is expected to have its one-millionth finisher, which would make it the first International Athletics Federation (IAAF) event to reach such a milestone. The race was originated in 1981 by former Olympic 10,000-meter bronze medalist and BBC sports commentator Brendan Foster, who's from Gateshead in that area of the country.
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