Mo Farah broke the long-standing British record on a dramatic day for him as he finished third in the Virgin Money London Marathon, a race with a five-star certification from European Athletics Running for All, on Sunday (22).
As tired as he has ever been at the end of a race, Farah crossed the line in a fine 2:06:21 behind Kenya’s Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge who won in 2:04:17 and Ethiopian Shura Kitata who was third in 2:04:49.
Farah’s time smashes the mark of 2:07:13 which Welshman Steve Jones ran in Chicago in October 1985, and improves upon his previous personal best of 2:08:21 from London four years ago. That was his only other marathon when he was a track runner – and put him second on the British all-time lists behind Jones – but now it is all so different for Farah, whose career is now firmly focused on the roads.
While he was also targeting the five-month old European record of 2:05:48 set by Norway’s Sondre Nordstad Moen in the Fukuoka Marathon in December, Farah’s time is the third quickest by a European. It was a superb performance and finally brings an end to Jones' record.
Farah, who said after the race he has 10 marathons in him, took so much from this occasion, none more than the drama of the drinks stations. At less than half an hour into the race, Farah found himself in a mess when he went to pick up his drink and then at 15km when he took the wrong bottle.
"The drink station was confusing, I was table four, I went to pick it up. The staff were helpful towards the end but at the beginning they were trying to take a picture rather than saying take a drink,” said Farah.
"I really enjoyed today, I gave 110% like I always do. I've got a lot to learn about the marathon but as long as I can keep doing it.”
However, the snafu with his water bottle did little to put him off his stride too much but in the end the searing pace set by Kipchoge proved too much.
The Kenyan, who went on to win the race for a third time, was at the helm of the elite men’s race through halfway in a punishing 61:00 - well inside world record pace on a warm day in the British capital.
Farah’s splits were 61:03 and 65:18 though Farah never really lost his rhythm as he ran alone in third for the final quarter.
“I am exhausted because the guys went for it and they were on world record pace,” said Farah, who pledged to go with the pace no matter what at the midweek press conference. “It was do or die. I went with it and I hung in there for as long as I could.
“It is so different to the track. Different pain – cramp and heavy legs – and different training but I have really enjoyed it. Tick to the British record, I have a long way to go.”
Farah is now likely to target an autumn marathon and he hasn’t ruled out contesting the marathon at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar next autumn. He will take great encouragement having beaten Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, who was sixth (2:08:53), and Kenya’s defending champion Daniel Wanjiru, who was eighth (2:10:35).
His teammate Lily Partridge will now have her eyes on the European Championships in Berlin this summer after a fine performance as she finished eighth in the women’s race.
Partridge ran the second fastest time by a European in 2018 with 2:29:24 as Kenya’s Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot won in 2:18:31, biding her time as Mary Keitany went off in under world record pace before fading and finished fifth in 2:24:37.
It was some run by Partridge who began the day with a personal best of 2:32:10 from her debut in the Seville Marathon last February. Finland’s Anne-Mari Hyrylainen, with 2:28:53 from the Dubai Marathon in January, is the only European woman to have run quicker this year.