Kenya's Geoffrey Kamworor and Bedan Karoki played an audacious game of catch-me-if-you-can in Cardiff on Saturday to achieve something which hasn’t been done in five years: beat Mo Farah at a major championship.
The Briton is now poised to come up against the world half-marathon gold and silver medallists on the track over his favoured territory of 10,000m – and perhaps Kamworor also over 5000m after his statement following his victory on Saturday that he’s also thinking about the 5000m – at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in what is becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated regular clashes on the distance running programme.
“It’s what you guys have been waiting for – a challenge!” grinned Farah to reporters after gritting his way to a bronze medal at the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships Cardiff 2016 in 59:59.
Farah hasn’t lost a major race over 10,000m since the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu and has won seven successive world and Olympic finals since then. But, when talking about Kamworor, he generously acknowledged that he will probably be lining up in Rio alongside a phenomenal runner who was in shape to break the half marathon world record on Saturday, and nearing his prime at the age of 23.
“I think Geoffrey is capable of breaking the (half marathon) world record, for sure," said Farah. "If he could run this pace in these conditions, he’s definitely capable of running a much faster time.
“I think the course was fast, and I’m sure Geoffrey will say the same thing, it’s quite a fast course even though there’s a little bit of uphill. If the conditions were clear, he would have been closer to the world record."
Kenya has not claimed the Olympic 10,000m title since Naftali Temu in 1968, their one and only win over 25 laps of the track. A similar plan to Cardiff where Kamworor and Karoki worked together to pull away from their rivals almost certainly has to be devised if Farah is to be beaten this summer, although Kamworor denied the Kenyan game plan in Cardiff – while an effective one – was designed specifically with him in mind.
“We wanted to make the fastest time and that’s what we were trying to do,” explained Kamworor, who is coached by Patrick Sang. “It was unfortunate with the rain and the bad start but if there was no rain, I think we could have run the fastest time.”
End of track tussles
The 10,000m in Rio has all the makings of a classic race with the contrast in styles on show and the clash is expected to be one to be savoured as it might be the last time the medal-winning trio in Cardiff face each other in a major championship on the track.
Farah has hinted he might give the marathon another try at some point after the Olympics while Kamworor, who has already run six marathons, has the long-term goal of contesting the distance at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
And as for Karoki, the Rio Olympics could even be his farewell appearance on the track before he embarks further on his career on the roads. “I think it will be my last ever track race as I’m looking forward to the marathon in the winter season,” said Karoki.
Karoki is still on the entry list for next month’s London Marathon although in Cardiff he hinted that he might postpone his debut over the distance until after the Olympics.
He has been fallible in a sprint finish in the past but having recently clocked 3:42.1 for 1500m and 13:38.1 for 5000m in the space of 45 minutes at altitude, Karoki could still be a factor when he makes what could be his final hurrah over 10,000m this summer.
A third world senior title in Cardiff – two on the roads and one at cross country – has further cemented Kamworor’s status as the world’s most versatile runner. But with his focus already shifting to Rio where the stakes are much higher, there weren’t any elaborate celebrations in the Welsh capital.
“For today, it’s about the World Half Marathon Championships,” said Kamworor at the post-race press conference. “But from tomorrow, it’s about the Olympics and preparation for the 10,000m.”
Farah was disappointed to lose on home soil but the Brit was also in no mood to dwell over the outcome with the rematch in Rio already at the forefront of the Olympic champion’s mind
“It was a good race but the book has closed now, as Geoffrey said, and it’s all about Rio,” said Farah. “I want to defend my title, the same as Geoffrey wanted to defend his title here."
Steven Mills for the IAAF