Double British delight despite Mo’s blues
After a turbulent week, Sir Mo Farah may have been left “disappointed” by his fifth-placed finish but a couple of less-heralded teammates, Charlotte Purdue and Callum Hawkins, ensured it was still a red-letter day for British endurance running at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday.
Sir Mo tried gamely to match the searing pace set by the great Eliud Kipchoge and the other pursuers but after losing contact with the leaders, had to settle for a 2:05:39 finish, nearly half a minute out-side the European record he set in Chicago last year.
Yet for Purdue and Hawkins, it proved a landmark day as both smashed their lifetime bests on the way to earning top-ten finishes which may well seal their places at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
For a serial winner like Farah, not even another British title and a British 30km record of 1 hour 27 minutes 28 seconds en route, felt like consolation.
“I’m definitely disappointed with my result. My aim was to follow the pacemaker, but after 20 miles when he dropped out, the gap opened up and it just became too hard to close,” the 36-year-old quadruple Olympic champion explained afterwards.
“My aim was to try and reel them back but the wheels came off and I was hanging in there. Congratulations to Eliud – the better man won today.”
He was adamant that the much-publicised pre-race spat with Haile Gebrselassie over his training stay in Ethiopia had not had affected his run. “It didn’t distract me at all,” he said, before paying tribute to Kipchoge after he clocked the second fastest run in history, 2:02.37.
"He is a very special athlete and he is humble. If Eliud can run those sort of times it just gives us another level of possibility,” said Farah, while promising the thousands who had cheered him so heartily at roadside that “I will be back!”
Purdue, the ever-improving Aldershot, Farnham and District runner who was top European finisher at the 2017 World Championships marathon, could hardly credit her latest remarkable breakthrough, as she took nearly four minutes off her lifetime best with a 2:25:38 run that earned her 10th place in the strongest women’s marathon field ever assembled.
“I'm over the moon to be back in London and to slash my PB. It was difficult in the last mile but I kept telling myself I never have to run again, I just have to finish.
“But I will run again - that’s not me announcing my retirement,” laughed the 27-year-old.
Which is just as well because she not only clocked a time inside the qualification standard for the World Championship marathon in Doha, but that coveted top-ten spot fulfilled the automatic qualifying cri-teria for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Her time also moved her to third on the British all-time list behind only the great Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi, and ahead of previous London winners like Joyce Smith, Veronique Marot and Liz McColgan (Nuttall).
The 26-year-old Hawkins, who keeps threatening to be the next British marathon luminary, was also thrilled to finish 10th in the men’s race while smashing his lifetime best of 2:10:17 by more than two minutes with a superb 2:08:14 that persuades him he could be in contention for a medal in Doha.
Like Purdue, Hawkins was also inside the Tokyo 2020 standard: “I had a funny moment when I hit 40km but I managed to get myself back together,” the Scot smiled. “I was hoping for 2:07 but I am ha-py with 2:08 given the conditions.
“It’s a good stepping stone for whatever I choose towards the end of the year. Hopefully, it is the Worlds and hopefully I will be pushing a medal.”
In just his second marathon, Welshman Dewi Griffiths reckoned he felt humbled by the experience of finishing the third Briton in 2:11:46, also inside the Doha standard.
“I had nothing to lose and I went for it,” he smiled, although he failed to better his superb debut marathon in Frankfurt two years ago.
There was a terrific conclusion to the battle for the British women’s silver medal behind Purdue, with Tish Jones passing Lily Partridge in the concluding stages to clock a PB of 2:31:00, exactly hitting the Doha qualifying mark.
“I really, really want a GB vest,” smiled Belgrave’s 33-year-old Jones. “I have worked so hard to get it and I have been on the brink before but then something like this happens. I am just so, so happy.”