London Marathon 2014: Winning would be better than the Olympics, says Mo Farah

 

Athletics Correspondent

How do you surpass the two distance golds at London 2012 or the double double achieved at last year’s World Championships? For Mo Farah, victory in the London Marathon would trump both.

It would, he said, be the greatest achievement of an already illustrious career, and it is hard to find fault with the argument. It is not merely the magnitude of winning a debut marathon – a feat not even achieved by the great Haile Gebrselassie on the same course back in 2003 (he finished third) – but it is the fact that Farah will have to achieve it against the greatest marathon field ever assembled.

The only name really missing is Kenenisa Bekele who, perhaps wisely, recently opted for a less high-profile marathon in Paris for his debut, which he won.

All the rationale would suggest that victory tomorrow is beyond Farah. He lacks the experience of the elite field and is planning to be paced to 62min 15sec for the opening half of the race, 30 seconds behind the target time pacemaker Gebrselassie is planning for the leaders.

But then again Farah’s coach, Alberto Salazar, who has been virtually ever-present around his star athlete for the past month, is not so much obsessed with times as finishing places. Such priorities have clearly held Farah in good stead on the track and no stone has gone unturned in the build-up to the paved roads of London.

Steady pacing has been Farah’s mantra all week, a facet that worked for Tsegaye Kebede in the race a year ago when he came from a minute down to overtake Emmanuel Mutai for victory. So don’t be alarmed to see Farah well off the pace, at least initially – an unfamiliar sight for the British public – before he aims to up the tempo in the final six or seven kilometres.

By then he will be well and truly into unfamiliar territory. Should he pull off the win, he says “it would be the greatest thing I’ve ever achieved, not just in terms of the London Marathon but in terms of the field and the people in it. To come away with the win would be up there. It would be incredible.”

But he and Salazar have genuinely no idea how he will fare... it is the great unknown of his athletics career to date.

“At the London Olympics, I’m sure most people thought that if I had a bad day I would finish third or fourth,” Farah added, “but here no one can say that I’m going to finish here or there. We don’t know what’s going to happen.

“I am confident of where I am, it’s all gone to plan; it’s just now in terms of the field what’s going to happen. That’s the question. I don’t know. I’m as clueless as everyone else. The only way to find out is to race.”


A gargantuan effort has gone into one of the most eagerly awaited marathon debuts of all time. Planning was first formulated in Salazar’s office at Project Oregon in Nike headquarters, where a team of 25 staff has worked on creating the “Sub two”, a running shoe aimed at helping the wearer dip below two hours for the marathon. With Wilson Kipsang’s world record at 2:03.23, that is a pipe dream for the foreseeable future.

In Farah’s quest for victory, most of 2014 has been spent away from his wife and three children training at the High Performance Centre in Iten, Kenya, a breeding ground for many of the athletes he faces tomorrow and has previously faced on the track.

The question is: can he do it? He is hopeful, though his rivals remain doubtful, while Paula Radcliffe, the women’s world-record holder for the distance, has wavered in her opinion. Initially, she was wary of his long, loping stride – physiologically better suited to the track than the road – but she has since warmed to the idea. “I think he’s capable of winning the race but I think there are another six or seven people capable of doing it,” she said.

That list includes Kebede, Kipsang, the Mutais (Geoffrey and Emmanuel – no relation), the Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich and 18-year-old Tsegaye Mekonnen, who was a revelation when winning his debut marathon in Dubai in January.

The minimum requirement for Farah is the British record, a time of 2:07.13 set by Steve Jones at the 1985 Chicago Marathon. Jones, who will be in the grandstand tomorrow, said: “It wouldn’t be a surprise if he went out and shattered the British record. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won the race.” Should the British record tumble – and it should – then Farah would astonishingly own every British record for Olympic distances from 1500m to the marathon.

While wet behind the ears in marathon terms, he has some experience of running on the streets of London, having run just half the distance in last year’s race, for which he was heavily criticised. But this is only his third event since completing the Olympic-World double double in Moscow last summer.

His sole competition of 2014, the New York Half-Marathon, was far from ideal, Farah falling and then collapsing across the line in second place. The sight of him being taken away in a wheelchair hardly sent out a strong message to his London rivals. But the 31-year-old dismissed that as little more than a hiccup, one of a few along the rocky road to the capital, another being his difficulty grabbing drinks bottles in training.

It has been five months of sacrifice to get to this point, even turning down an invitation to watch his beloved Arsenal play their FA Cup semi-final against Wigan today to focus on the race – “it would be wrong to go, I’ve got to rest, I’ve got 26.2 miles waiting for me”.

It is a race he has dreamt about since he was a young boy. Aged 14, he finished second in the mini-marathon. There would be no disgrace in a repeat tomorrow.

Weir stakes all on a record seventh victory

The Paralympian David Weir is confident he can seal a record seventh London Marathon victory despite a recent chest infection.

The 34-year-old is tied with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson with six wins but will take the record outright if successful tomorrow.

Weir had been looking to double his efforts and target victory in London and Boston a week later, but will now forgo the North American leg of that double because of recent illness.

“I need to put all my efforts into London,” he said. “Every single bit of me will be on Sunday’s race.”

After winning quadruple Paralympic gold in London 2012, Weir eased off his training and could finish only fifth a year ago but is adamant he can  return to winning ways.

“I’ve got my hunger back for training now,” he said. “The next couple of years are busy ahead of the Rio [Paralympics]. I’m not retiring, even if I don’t win on Sunday I’ll keep going.”

Grey-Thompson is resigned to the likelihood that the record she has shared with Weir since 2012 will be his outright come tomorrow. “I think he’ll do it,” she said. “He’s had a really strong season so far. He just needs to stay out of trouble.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Rebel, rebel: Vivienne Westwood in her baroque-influenced early-Nineties designs
fashionWhy we mustn't take Dame Vivienne Westwood for granted
News
The police have been criticised in a raid on the luxury home of Sir Cliff Richard
people
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
Arts and Entertainment
Morgana Robinson
arts + entsIt is not easy interviewing Morgana Robinson. Here's why...
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin