Outside the International Convention Centre in England's second city yesterday Brummies were queuing to see Britain's Got Talent – Simon Cowell, Ant and Dec et al. Inside the National Indoor Arena, just around the corner, the capacity 8,000 crowd were banging their thunder sticks and threatening to raise the rafters as Britain's runners and jumpers showed that they have some ability among them, 160 days out from the main event of the London Olympics.
There were seven home winners over the course of the Aviva Grand Prix, the traditional highlight of the indoor season on these shores, but an unexpected sting in the tail. In the men's two miles, the final event on the programme, Mo Farah consigned Emiel Puttemans' 39-year-old European indoor record and Jon Mayock's 10-year-old British mark to history. That much had been expected of the world 5,000m champion. What had not been foreseen, and what reduced the decibel count somewhat, was the sight of Britain's golden boy finishing second.
There was little sign of what was to come when the last of the Kenyan pacemakers, Remmy Limo, stepped aside with five laps to go. Farah was left in front and a battle with the clock beckoned. One lap later, though, Tariku Bekele – brother of Kenenisa Bekele, holder of the world indoor record for the distance – edged past. The Ethiopian was followed by Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge and Moses Kipsiro of Uganda.
It was all that the patently strained Farah could do to get past Kipsiro and Bekele to finish runner up. Kipchoge, one of the Briton's predecessors as world 5,000m champion, was a clear winner in 8min 07.39sec. Farah crossed the line in 8:08.07 – more than five seconds inside the Belgian Puttemans' ancient European record and 10 seconds inside Mayock's domestic mark.
He pocketed a $5,000 cheque for breaking the British record – as the long jumper Shara Proctor had done half an hour earlier – but that was small consolation to the man who has looked a million dollars on the track in the past 12 months. "I just felt flat in the last 1,000m," Farah reflected. "My legs felt heavy. I wanted to run a decent time. I just didn't have that change of gear. I don't know why."
Farah will wait until his American coach Alberto Salazar analyses the race before deciding whether to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in three weeks. "At least it shows you cannot take anything for granted," Farah said. "It's alright everyone saying, 'Mo's the favourite' but it this proves that anything can happen in distance running."
It has been clear for some time that Jessica Ennis has got considerable talent and, at the national indoor championships in her home city last weekend, the pride of Sheffield was at her best, matching her lifetime best with a 7.95sec clocking in the 60m hurdles. Yesterday the great British all-rounder was even better, beating one of the world's very best high hurdlers at their own game and clocking the fastest time in the world this year.
Drawn in the lane next to Danielle Carruthers, the World Championship 100m hurdles silver medallist in Daegu last August, Ennis trailed the American at the first hurdle but pulled ahead to win by 0.04sec in a stunning 7.87sec. In doing so, she improved her lifetime best by 0.08sec and overtook LoLo Jones at the top of the world rankings.
"I'm shocked," Ennis said. "I would have been happy if I'd run 7.94sec and broken my personal best by 0.01sec."
It would have been understandable if Ennis had been a little below par when she returned to the arena for the long jump an hour later but she finished third with 6.47m, an indoor personal best. Proctor won that event with a last round effort of 6.80m, having already achieved 6.71m to break the British indoor record held by Sue Telfer and Jo Wise by 1cm.
"I had a dream last night that I would jump 6.71m," said Proctor, who was born and raised in Anguilla but cannot compete in the Olympics for her homeland – which does not have a National Olympic Committee – and is British qualified as the Caribbean island is a British territory.
Holly Bleasdale was no less impressive in winning the pole vault, the 20-year-old Blackburn Harrier clearing 4.70m to beat former world champion Anna Rogowska of Poland on countback. There were also British wins for Nigel Levine in the 400m, JJ Legede in the long jump, Robbie Grabarz in the high jump and Shana Cox in the 400m.