Mo Farah to become a half-marathon man in London
For Mo Farah, it was a relative sprint in the National Indoor Arena yesterday. The marathon, however, is coming for Britain's double golden boy.
No sooner had the Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion crossed the finish line after securing victory in his first race of 2013 than it was announced that he would be lining up for the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday 21 April. It will not be Farah's marathon debut – he will run with the elite group to the halfway mark – but the unprecedented arrangement will be a stepping stone to the 29-year-old Londoner's graduation to the classic 26.2-mile distance.
"I will make my marathon debut in the 2014 London Marathon but will run the 2013 race to halfway as part of my preparation for next year," Farah said after pulling clear of the Frenchman Florian Carvalho to win the 3,000m in the British Athletics Grand Prix meeting. "It will allow me to understand the course and the systems I will need when I run the full distance."
There is always the possibility that Farah might be tempted to stay the full distance in this year's race. After all, Tom Byers entered the 1500m at the Bislett Games in Oslo in 1981 as the designated pacemaker, but decided not to drop out and ended up hanging on for a famous victory against Steve Ovett.
Asked if there was any chance of him "going all the way", Farah insisted: "No, there's no chance. I have a plan to go to halfway and that will be it – even if I'm tempted to finish, even if I feel great. My plan's just to run the half, get good experience and look forward to 2014."
It's a plan that drew a raised eyebrow from Paula Radcliffe in the BBC television commentary box. "Honestly, I find it a little bit strange," the women's marathon world-record holder said. "It's not what I would have done.
"Either you find a good half-marathon somewhere or you take the plunge, attack the distance and race it. Here, he's caught between two stools. For me, you go into the London Marathon when you're ready to do it and attack it hard. But everybody has different reasons."
Farah responded: "I don't think it's strange at all. The more practice you do the better chance of getting it right. It's not just about running in the marathon. It's about dealing with everything – making sure you've got the carbohydrates the night before and you get the right sleep, and getting up and going on the bus to the start. It's going to be perfect practice for 2014.
"And, secondly, running in the London Olympics, having 80,000 people cheering for you… that was the best thing ever. I ran in the mini-marathon when I was younger and I just get excited thinking about the amount of people who can come out on the marathon course and give me that support and that energy.
"It will also be great for the people who didn't get a chance to go to the London Olympics." According to Hugh Brasher, the race director of the London Marathon, who was on hand to make the post-race announcement, the 26.2-mile route from Greenwich to The Mall is lined by crowds of 650,000 each year.
"Almost 10 times the amount of the Olympics," Brasher said. "It's a fantastic opportunity for British people to see him back in London, his home town."
When it comes to the 2014 race, it will be a fantastic opportunity for British men's marathon running to move on from the 1980s. Steve Jones's UK record – 2hr 07min 13sec – dates back to 1985, when Farah was two. As it happens, Farah runs a half-marathon next weekend in the United States. Helen Clitheroe is also entered for the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and, after missing the home Olympics because of injury, the 39-year-old Preston Harrier – preparing for her full marathon debut in London in April – returned to action with a gutsy victory in the women's 3,000m yesterday, clocking 8min 50.16sec.
There were also notable wins for Holly Bleasdale in the pole vault (4.70m) and Shara Proctor in the long jump (6.78m).
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