SIMPLYHEALTH GREAT NORTH RUN
MO FARAH AND MARY KEITANY VICTORIOUS AT THE WORLD’S BIGGEST HALF-MARATHON
Mo Farah outkicks Jake Robertson to take his fourth Great North Run title while Mary Keitany claims the women’s win on Tyneside
THE PLAN amongst a few members of the elite men’s field had been to work together, to push the pace hard straight away and try to hurt Mo Farah.
It had been a long and tiring year for the man who retained his world 10,000m crown in London during the summer, after all.
The strategy almost worked, too. Almost.
After the attempts of Dathan Ritzenhein, Feyisa Lilesa and Zane and Jake Robertson, it was the latter of the twin brothers from New Zealand who found himself as the last one standing with Farah as the pair stretched away from the rest of the field in the closing stages of the Simplyhealth Great North Run. Robertson was the picture of containment and calm while, on his shoulder, the strain was written all over Farah’s features. The 34-year-old admitted later he had almost been broken with three miles to go. Yet he clung on and, with 400m to go – just as Robertson made a final bid to surge clear – Farah engaged his trademark finish, streaking away to round off another memorable year with a record fourth consecutive victory at this event.
That he fell flat on his back after crossing the line in 60:06 spoke volumes about the effort Farah had been forced to expend, with Robertson – who ran 60:00 in winning the Lisbon Half Marathon earlier this year – coming home in 60:12 and Olympic marathon silver medallist Lilesa third in 61:32.
“Jake pushed the pace on and he almost got rid of me,” said Farah, who admitted a lack of training had almost cost him dearly. “I wasn’t going to tell him that but he almost got rid of me with three miles to go.
“There was definitely willpower in getting myself to the line first, because it’s been hard to motivate myself after Zurich (his final track race), after the world championships. It’s harder. I’m sore. Every part of my muscles is aching because I did run hard and there was a lack of training.”
Farah had been at the head of affairs as the field crossed the Tyne Bridge in blustery
conditions, but the race really began to kick into gear as the route entered Gateshead.
Zane Robertson, 16th in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships this summer, hit the front before American Ritzenhein, runner-up to Farah last year, took over and led the group also containing the likes of Jake Robertson, Lelisa, Japan’s Hiroyuki Yamamoto and Welshman Dewi Griffiths through the 5km mark in 14:30.
That pack ebbed and flowed but held together, going through 10km in 29:19 in blustery conditions, before Farah took it upon himself to shake things up a little.
The Briton decided to test his rivals by upping the pace and throwing in a 4:25 mile. It was Lilesa who responded, working his way to the front, but the challenge of the Ethiopian, who is preparing to run the Chicago Marathon this autumn, didn’t last long and he began to fade.
The Robertson twins had insisted before the race that they would do their utmost to stop Farah and the pair were true to their word as it became a three-way battle at the front.
Zane began to struggle through the eight-mile marker, however, and three soon became two as Jake stepped in to set up the tense finish.
Farah is now taking a break and will “walk around a bit, put some weight on” before he fully immerses himself in his bid to be successful over the marathon distance. “I’ll go back to Portland and spend more time with the family because I miss that,” he added. “Then I’ll decide where I do a block of training leading up to the marathon.”
Another British athlete who put up an impressive showing was Griffiths, who produced a big personal best over 13.1 miles to clock 62:53 for seventh place.
The 26-year-old is in fine form right now, following a commanding win at the recent Cardiff 10km, and is targeting Commonwealth Games selection to compete over 10,000m on the Gold Coast for Wales in April.
“I went through 10km in the leading group but it was always going to be hard to stick with them,” said Griffiths. “It felt like it was a tough day out there and many of the guys said the same so I will take some comfort from that.
“I’m trying to step things up every year and I had a promising solo run at Cardiff. Running 28:48 in those circumstances and that (poor) weather is commendable.”
He added: “I’m hoping to be selected for the Commonwealth Games next year so that might put a different dynamic on things this winter in terms of how much cross country I do.
“I’m one of those athletes that always wants more. I’m hard to please.
“In fact, I’d probably say I’m more happy with how I’ve gone in the 3km and 5km this year rather than the 10km, which is my favoured event. I’m getting closer to going to sub-28 and that is something I’ve been targeting so hopefully it will come soon.”
“I’M SORE. EVERY PART OF MY MUSCLE IS ACHING BECAUSE I DID RUN HARD AND THERE WAS A LACK
To the fore: 10-time global track champion Mo Farah tried to control the pace
Dewi Griffiths (right) ran a big personal best to finish seventh
Top three: Mo Farah, Jake Robertson and Feyisa Lilesa celebrate