Not so long ago, the sight of Mo Farah putting in a late sprint meant one thing – victory. At the Great Manchester Run on Sunday (May 21), though, the four-time Olympic champion’s closing burst brought him only eighth place.
In truth, this penultimate race of his career was always likely to be far more ceremonial than competitive but his presence brought the crowds out in force once again. As with last month’s London Marathon, he was afforded the chance to soak up the acclaim of a huge public audience who were more than willing to urge him on.
There was to be no fairytale ending as he finished in 29:11, some way back from winner Eyob Faniel’s 28:27, but the sight of the 40-year-old trying to put his foot down as he approached the line betrayed the competitive character who has struck global gold no fewer than 10 times.
Farah knows, however, that his race is run.
“I will miss it,” he said. “I loved doing what I did over the years and I will the miss the crowd, miss the support. My mind wants to do it but my body can’t quite do it, and obviously you’ve got to call it a day. I’m also looking forward to retiring, spending time with my kids and hopefully still be involved in the sport.”
“I’d just love to see youngsters not put hurdles in front of them.” @Mo_Farah wants to stay involved in athletics after he retires 💥
He finished eighth in 29:11 at the Great Manchester Run 10km and says he’ll miss these kind of atmospheres 🇬🇧
🎙️ @euancrumley pic.twitter.com/se1rKyZ3JV
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) May 21, 2023
While he considers was his next steps might be, Farah’s final outing will come later this year, in September at the Great North Run – an event he has won six times. “I promised [Great North Run founder] Brendan Foster ‘one day you’ll see me crossing the Tyne Bridge in the lead’, and I’ve done that six times. Hopefully one more time maybe,” he said.
While the sight of Farah battling it out was one to which the crowd were accustomed, less familiar was Faniel being at the head of affairs.
It was perhaps fitting that, at a time when the BAFTA-winning Farah has been highlighting the difficulties which individuals can face when attempting to make a life in a new country, another man who once had to go through his own switch of national identity was leading the way.
Faniel was born in Eritrea but came to Italy as a 12-year-old and became an Italian citizen in 2015. He is no slouch, either, with a marathon best of 2:07:19 to his name and a 10km best of 28:08.
In Manchester, the man who won the 2017 Venice Marathon after he benefited from the leaders taking a wrong turn in the latter stages set out with clear intent and immediately established a gap. “I wanted to start off strong and told myself not to look behind,” said the 30-year-old. “After 1km, I decided to look and I couldn’t see anyone so I said ‘okay, let’s push’.”
By the time Faniel reached halfway in 13:54, he held a 14-second cushion from a sizeable pack which contained last year’s runner-up Jack Rayner, his fellow Australian Stewart McSweyn plus British duo Omar Ahmed and Marc Scott as well as Commonwealth marathon champion Victor Kiplangat.
The Italian kept his lead, though, and while Scott did get close, his move came a little too late as he finished four seconds behind Faniel’s 38:27. Just as he had done 12 months previously, McSweyn came third – in a time of 28:35.
Scott was happy with performance as he continues his return to form following a stress fracture in December. He now plans to attack the British 10km record of 27:44 which is jointly held by Farah and Emile Cairess in July, before making his marathon debut in the autumn.
The women’s race followed a similar pattern to the men’s as Hellen Obiri made it two Manchester wins on the bounce with a commanding gun to tape performance.
There were perhaps question marks as to how well she might fare so soon after winning the Boston Marathon last month, but the two-time Olympic 5000m medallist tore into the lead and put 14 seconds on her closest rival, fellow Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, when the halfway mark was reached in 15:08.
Though she was ultimately some way slower in the warm and windy conditions than the time of 30:15 she clocked 12 months previously, Obiri did not let up and won by 45 seconds in 31:14, with Jepchirchir second and local favourite Calli Thackery (32:51) winning the battle for third with fellow Briton Steph Twell (32:54).
In the elite wheelchair races, the 2021 Great North Run winner Sean Frame secured victory in 21:52 with a late charge to overtake England’s Commonwealth marathon bronze medallist Johnboy Smith (22:09). Spanish record-holder Rafa Botello Jimenez was third in 23:56.
The women’s contest was won by Jade Hall, who obliterated her personal best to clock 26:27. Joanna Robertson also produced her fastest ever performance with 31:14.
Michael Jensen was overall winner of the half marathon, clocking 66:20. Next across the line was Long Eaton’s Simon Crawford in 68:27, with Chorlton Runners’ Thomas Charles completing the top three in 68:50. Caroline Brenchley won the women’s contest in 78:44.
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