“He’s sprinting for gold, he’s running for greatness. Mo Farah is going to get there again, Farah wins it!”
This legendary commentary by Steve Cram depicting the moment when Mo Farah edged out Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia in the closing stages of the 2013 World Championship 5000m still ives on. Cram remains cool, somewhat calmer than the thousands of onlookers as Farah completes the unimaginable double double. Just over two years ago, he won both the 10,000m and 5,000m at the World Championships, just as he had the previous year in London making him one of the greatest distance runners of all time. This year he attempts to repeat this feat for a third time.
In exactly two days time, the men’s 10,000m will be about to start. The athletes will embark on a 25 lap journey around the Bird’s Nest Stadium where only one can come out victorious; for most this is predicted to be Great Britain’s Mo Farah.
If Farah wins this 10,000m, he will become the most decorated distance runner of all time (6 gold medals), ahead of even the likes of Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie who won six consecutive 10,000m titles at major championships, but never the 5,000m, 10,000m double. However, it is a lot easier said than done going out on the track and defeating the worlds best athletes twice after accumulating a total of 50 laps of the track by the end of the 5,000m final.
Mo Farah – Invincible?
I very much liked the quote used by Len Johnson in his preview of the race for the IAAF which states the only way to beat Farah would be ‘by tying his legs together,’ referring to Ron Delany quote about Olympic champion, Herb Elliott.
“There’s just one way – by tying his legs together”
I personally very much agree with this being the same case here with Farah. Since 2011 – where he was surprisingly beaten by Ibrahim Jeilan in the 2011 Daegu 10,000m final – Farah has been invincible over this distance. Although the very fast times have not come just yet, Farah has always shown his tactical awareness and prowess, learning form his mistakes in Daegu.
When the bell lap came in 2011, Farah took off. He had perhaps a 30m-40m advantage over the rest of the field which he had strung out with this sudden burst of acceleration down the back straight. However, it would be the fairly unknown Ethiopian, Ibrahim Jeilan who would hunt him down in the last 100m after Farah had overcooked it. This is certainly something he will never do again.
The 10,000m distance is a rarely un distance for Farah, with his next race over the 25 laps coming in the Olympic final one year on from his surprise defeat. This time there was no doubt in success, Farah would be able to produce a 53.48 second last lap, gradually winding up the pace the whole way round the final 400m. Again, Farah opted to not race the distance again until the last World Championships in Moscow, 2013.
For me, 2013 was a very similar year to what 2015 has been for Farah. Over the course of he year he showed tremendous speed and strength over the final stages. No better example of this being his 50.89 second final lap at the European Team Championships 5000m and the 3:28.81 1500m he ran at Monaco. This was very much repeated this year when Farah would produce another great 1500m at the Monaco Diamond League, running 3:28.93 this time.
With this speed, Farah was able to hold off Ibrahim Jeilan this time who once more challenged him over the final lap, but Farah always had the edge. This is something I feel will be the same again this year. As in 2011, Farah ran the Prefontaine Classic 10,000m where he beat the XC Champion Geoffrey Kamworor and Bronze medalist from 2013 Paul Tanui with a time of 26:50.97, a WL time this year.
With the quality of racing that Farah has shown throughout the year, being able to hold off the talent of Ethiopia in the Lausanne Diamond League to win the 5000m, running an incredibly fast 1500m and beating all his main rivals over 10,000m at Pre Classic, then I see no reason for Farah to come up short in two days time.
The Might of Africa and Galen Rupp
As I have previously mentioned, there are definite rivals to Farah going into this race and he certainly won’t have the easiest ride to victory. Both Kenya and Ethiopia never fail to deliver world class athletes who will always be in with a chance of winning medals, and had done so once more. The athletes representing Kenya and Ethiopia in the 10,000m are:
You would expect that both Kamworor and Tanui would be the biggest threats in the race, however, Tanui may have peaked too soon. Despite showing great form at the Prefontaine Classic along with a great 5000m in the Rome Diamond League, clocking a time of 12:58.69 for second place, Tanui could only manage a third place finish t the Kenyan trials, significantly trailing off the pace of Kamworor, the eventual winner. I wouldn’t count him out just yet considering the face was very fast, Kamworor winning in 27:11 at altitude as well so in a slower race, Tanui may still have the strength towards the end.
Realistically, this makes Kamworor potentially the greatest threat to Farah’s reign. Although he couldn’t live with the fast finishing Farah in Eugene, Kamworor was coming off a heavy XC season, being the XC World Champion, he hadn’t done full levels of speed work at this time. Along with this fact, he has since proved he has progressed, destroying the field at the Kenyan championships, showing in a fast paced race, he is a real force to be reckoned with.
We must no discount any of these Africans as Farah mistakenly did in 2011. They may not have been dominant figures throughout all rustics during the year, but when it comes to the championships races, you always know they will be ready. Another one to watch would be Muktar Edris who was the 2014 world leader over 5000m, running a time of 12:54.83. He won the Ethiopian trials, in itself being a very impressive feat and with his 5000m speciality and XC strength, I think the will be right up there over the last 400m.
Finally, we cannot forget the extraordinary talent of Galen Rupp, London 2012 Olympic silver medalist behind Farah. Despite having a fairly traumatic year so far with the Nike Oregon Project doping scandals, Rupp showed at the Pre Classic that he is still strong and in good shape. He comfortably defeated the field at the USA trials in the 10,000m and competed well in the 5000m at Pre, coming in third behind top Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes.
If Rupp can show the same sort of strength he showed early on in the year then I think he will be up there competing for a medal, however he did have a poor race by his standards, coming in 5th at the Flotrack Throwdown a couple of weeks ago in the Mile. This was probably a minor blip and I’m sure he will be ready in Beijing.
Is there any way to beat Farah?
The biggest factor in the race will certainly be the tactics used to race Farah. There could be many different ways in which the race could go, all depending on what the different athletes want to do. For me, the most likely scenario will be a hard, fast race from the beginning. This is definitely the best chance the Africans have at beating Farah, although he beat them at this very game in Eugene earlier in the year.
For Kamworor, this is definitely the best tactic for him to use as he has shown that he has the endurance to carry this out, but potentially lacks the top end speed Farah has meaning a show race would far from benefit him. Others however will be the opposite, hoping for a slow race, being able to kick over the final lap.
If the race to turn into a slow tactical one – although very unlikely – the race will really play into the hands of the fast guys. I haven’t mentioned Cam Levins just yet but he showed he has great speed, winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games. With a very slow race, it favours all three Oregon Project runners, Mo, Galen and Cam, but also many of the other Africans.
Even if other tactics were applied such as a surging type of race, which the great Eritrean athlete, Tadese adopted in the 2012 Olympics, I feel Farah is tactically astute enough to cope with anything thrown at him. Overall, unless something spectacular happens, I really cannot see anyone beating Farah over 10,000m. He has shown he has the endurance by running sub-60 minutes for the half marathon and also the speed by running 3:28 for 1500m, the range and ability of Farah is something unprecedented, you the point at which he could secure his place as the greatest distance runner of all time at these championships.