Kenyan marathon man powers to victory as Britain’s Olympic champion recovers from mid-race tumble to finish runner-up
Not for the first time in his career, Mo Farah tripped and fell mid-race before picking himself up and battling into second place behind runaway winner Geoffrey Mutai in the NYC Half on Sunday.
Farah’s one and only warm-up race before the Virgin Money London Marathon on April 13 took a dramatic twist just before the 10km mark when the Briton was accidentally clipped, possibly by Kenyan Stephen Sambu, while in the lead group and hit the ground hard.
Showing the same determination that has brought him Olympic and world 5000m and 10,000m titles in the past couple of years, the 30-year-old got up and gave chase. But while he overtook Sambu near the end to claim second place, he was unable to make inroads into the lead of Geoffrey Mutai, who was pushing the pace when Farah fell.
Mutai, a Kenyan who is also preparing for the London Marathon, cruised to victory in 60:50 with Farah clocking just outside his UK record of 60:59 with 61:08.
Later, there were reports that Farah was briefly unconscious and he was wheeled away from the finish area. But he soon emerged to confirm he was okay.
“I feel good and just tried so hard in the race. It’s not a big deal,” said Farah, who won this race in 2011. “I’m not sure what happened.
“I just remember sort of falling down and hitting the ground quite hard. I got caught on my hip, my ankle, the whole right-hand side. Last four miles I struggled a bit. I was pretty much seeing stars.”
He added: “Conditions here today were very cold. London won’t be as cold as this. It would have been nice to win today, but he (Mutai) is a good athlete.”
Certainly the temperatures were hovering around the freezing point when the 20,000-strong field set off in New York City. Farah was wearing a long-sleeved grey top, gloves and hat. He needed it, too, as the large lead pack, minus any pacemakers, sauntered through the first mile in a pedestrian 5:09 and then 5km in 15:15 before improving to 29:36 at 10km.
Farah cast off his grey top just after 5km and later removed his hat. But the mixture of cold temperatures and the heavy fall just before 10km must have come as a shock following several months of training in the warm and dry altitude environment of Iten in Kenya.
Due to the slow early pace and chilly conditions, the race struggled to get close to the fastest half-marathon of the day – Bedan Karoki’s 59:58 from Lisbon set slightly earlier in Portugal – but the action in New York City was definitely the most dramatic.
Farah is not used to losing races in recent years. Then again, he is ironically quite familiar with falling over during competitions.
At the 2007 European Indoor Championships he fell in his 3000m heat before getting up to finish sixth. The same happened over 3000m at the British Grand Prix in Gateshead in 2009 (he was ninth), plus an indoor mile in Boston in early 2012 (he was fourth).
Mutai, though, was not going to be caught. The Kenyan is the world’s fastest-ever marathon runner after his 2:03:02 victory on a point-to-point downhill course in Boston in 2011 and he looks in fine form going into London next month.
In the women’s race, Sally Kipyego made it a Kenyan double as she won impressively in 68:30 – half a minute ahead of Bizunesh Deba, with Molly Huddle third. British hope Gemma Steel was in the lead group until halfway but later dropped out.
» See next week’s AW, out March 20, for a more in-depth NYC Half report