Briton is supreme as he coasts to 2:05:11 for his first big-city marathon win ahead of strong field
Mo Farah always told us it would take time to transition from the track to the marathon and that we needed to be patient. Well beaten in his first two marathons in London, he finally showed brilliant ability over 26.2 miles in Chicago on Sunday with a performance that matched his global 5000m and 10,000m titles.
When it comes to big city marathon victories, this was third time lucky for the 35-year-old after his 2:08:21 English record for eighth place in London in 2014 and 2:06:21 British record for third in London in April this year.
Racing in cool, rainy conditions in a city nicknamed the Windy City, Farah clocked a European record of 2:05:11 to beat the 2:05:48 mark set by Sondre Nordstad Moen of Norway in Fukuoka last year.
Farah also became the first British man to win in Chicago since Paul Evans 22 years ago – and the fifth after the success of Evans, Steve Jones, Paul Davies-Hale and Eamonn Martin during a successful 1980s and 1990s spell for the country.
Times and statistics aside, it was the nature of Farah’s victory that impressed. Using the same tactics that served him so well during his multiple track championship wins, he sat near the back of the lead pack for much of the early miles, conserving his energy, focusing on his drinks and keeping his cool. Then he moved up into pole position into the last 2km when, with only Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia for company, he controlled the pace at the front before kicking away with about 600m to go to win by 13 seconds.
It bodes brilliantly for his hopes ahead of the IAAF World Championships in Doha – an event that is set to have a midnight marathon on the Corniche promenade – plus the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, an event that is the next big goal of world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge.
Earlier this year Geremew won the Dubai Marathon in 2:04:00 and he was one of a number of classy competitors that Farah had to beat. In third, Suguru Osako enjoyed a big pay day as he set a Japanese record of 2:05:50.
In fourth, Kenneth Kipkemoi, a Kenyan who had done much to split up the sizeable lead pack as the runners entered the final 10km, ran 2:05:57. Defending champion Galen Rupp was fifth in 2:06:21 after dropping off the pace with 5km to go.
In sixth and seventh, Geoffrey and Abel Kirui ran 2:06:45 and 2:07:52 respectively. The former in particular had looked good during the race and came into the race as reigning world champion in addition to being 2017 Boston Marathon winner.
Some fared even worse. Yuki Kawauchi, the Boston Marathon winner this year in atrocious weather, wound up 19th in 2:16:26, while Augustine Choge, who beat Farah easily to the Commonwealth 5000m title back in 2006, dropped out before halfway.
“It is amazing to cross the line first,” said Farah. “This is a great marathon and it is nice to run against Galen and others.
“Galen won here last year and it’s good to come here to win this year. I felt a bit sluggish at the start, but probably because the pace wasn’t that fast, but good toward the end of the race.”
The pre-race hype focused heavily on Farah and Rupp and the former training partners exchanged a friendly handshake on the start line. Led by two pacemakers, the runners then got into their stride as they passed 5km in 14:52 and 10km in 30:10 with 14 contenders in the lead group at that stage as Choge and Kawauchi held off the pace – the latter content to run his own race well over a minute behind.
Racing with ‘Sir Mo’ on a red Nike singlet and with bright yellow arm warmers, Farah looked relaxed as a pack of 14 runners cruised through halfway in 63:03 as rain began to fall on the course. “With the conditions not great, I think we decided to go for position not time,” Farah later said.
At 25km there were still 13 contenders in the lead group – five Kenyans, two Ethiopians, three Japanese, an American, a Moroccan and a Briton, Farah. At 35km Kipkemoi was at the front of a lead group with Farah, Rupp, Geoffrey Kirui, Geremew and another Ethiopian, Birhanu Legese.
But as with most marathons the contenders began to whittle away one by one and at 40km the Briton only had Geremew, Kipkemoi and Osako for company, with Geoffrey Kirui struggling.
Kipkemoi and Osako soon peeled off, leaving Farah to go head to head with Geremew. But given that Geremew’s 5000m PB is almost half a minute slower than Farah’s and given that he was 11th in the 2015 world 10,000m final – one of Farah’s many global track wins – the result was probably never in doubt once the duo reached the final few hundred metres.
— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) October 7, 2018
“My whole build up has been great,” said Farah, who had looked in splendid form last month when winning his fifth consecutive Great North Run title over the half-marathon distance.
On future plans he said: “I just want to take a break now with my wife and kids. I’ve not seen them for a while as I’ve been in a training camp for the last two months.”
When it comes to his next targets he said: “Maybe the world champs and other stuff – I’m not sure right now.”
Equally impressive was Brigid Kosgei’s victory in the women’s race as the Kenyan clocked 2:18:36.
Kosgei was runner-up in Chicago 12 months ago and also in London this year, but like Farah she also demonstrated the winning touch to take a big victory. “I enjoy it when it rains and I felt good moving through the race,” she said, after seeing off the challenge of Roza Dereje and Shure Demise – an Ethiopian duo who ran 2:21:18 and 2:22:15 as Florence Kiplagat of Kenya was fourth in 2:26:08.
Kosgei, 24, ran her first half in 70:09 before storming to a 68:21 second half as she increased from about 16:30 5km pace to knocking out a sizzling 31:27 from 30-40km.
Much attention surrounded triathlete-turned-runner Gwen Jorgensen and she clocked 2:36:23 in 11th while British runner Alyson Dixon dropped out after halfway.
A few weeks after her world record-breaking performance in Berlin, Manuela Schar took the women’s wheelchair race in emphatic style in 1:41:38 after having previously finished runner-up four times in Chicago.
The men’s wheelchair race went to 20-year-old Daniel Romanchuk as the American out-sprinted Marcel Hug and David Weir to win in 91:39.
» See the October 11 issue of AW for more coverage