Mo Farah breaks one-hour world record on ‘amazing’ return to track | Sport
At an age when most athletes’ legs have started to betray them and their glory days have long faded into the rearview mirror, the 37-year-old Mo Farah was able to grind his way to the first world record of his career.
On a still night in Brussels, Farah produced his trademark late kick to claim Haile Gebrselassie’s one-hour record by 45 metres – running 21.33km. He was grimacing desperately as he powered past his training partner Bashir Abdi near the end but it proved to be Farah’s finest hour.
“What an amazing way to do it and show the people what is possible,” said Farah, who adds the record to his four Olympic and six world titles over 5,000m and 10,000m. “We had to work hard. We helped each other get through but it is nice to get the world record.”
While the hour record is rarely attempted, the quality of those who have held the crown is indisputable: they include Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zatopek, Ron Clarke and Gebrselassie. Farah is not the force he was since leaving Alberto Salazar but he had enough of the old magic left.
Farah started steadily, helped by three pacemakers and the latest WaveLight technology at the side of the track: the green flashing lights showing him the pace he had to run to exceed Gebrselassie’s distance of 21.285km.
The first 30 minutes were run at metronomic pace, with Farah serenely knocking out 67 and 68sec laps. Briefly, with about 20 minutes to go, he appeared to be slipping but aided by Abdi and the latest new shoe technology, Farah grinded his way to glory.
That it was Gebrselassie’s record made this triumph even sweeter. Farah has still not forgotten that his watch, money in four currencies and two phones was stolen when he was staying at the Ethiopian’s hotel last year. Gebrselassie responded by accusing Farah of “defaming” his reputation and business. Most observers felt the Briton lost that battle but he certainly won this war.
He also showed in his first track race since 2017 that he remains a force, although on this evidence few would bet on him reclaiming his 10,000m title in Tokyo next year.
Inevitably, this record will reignite the debate about Farah’s place in the pantheon of British sport. His many cheerleaders maintain he is the country’s most successful athlete, with four Olympic gold medals, six world titles and a shiny world record on his CV. His detractors, though, will point to his long association with Salazar, who was banned for four years for doping offences, as a cause for concern – even if Farah has never been accused of wrongdoing.
The world 1500m and 10,000m champion, Sifan Hassan, broke the women’s world one-hour record by running 18.93km to beat the record set by Ethiopia’s Dire Tune, in 2008, by nearly 500m.
With Farah, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and other British athletes competing in Belgium, the dearth of big names at the British championships in Manchester was even more striking. It could yet have a lasting impact, too, given this is the last meeting of the SKYCHURP’s lucrative contract with UKA, worth more than £2m a year.
With Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir, Jemma Reekie also missing, it hardly presented a strong case for a renewal. However, there were a couple of impressive performances with Harry Coppell clearing a British record 5.85m in the pole vault and Imani-Lara Lansiquot winning the women’s 100m in 11.26 ahead of Kristal Awuah and Amy Hunt.
The British Athletics chief executive, Jo Coates, believes Christian Malcolm can have the same dramatic impact on his sport as Pep Guardiola did in football despite his comparative inexperience.
“I’ve gone for a young, visionary and innovative coach,” she said. “We want someone to fundamentally make the difference and with our new performance director Sara Symington, who has 11 years experience, we have that perfect mix. He is our Pep.”