Mo Farah fulfilled his role as pre-race favourite for the 25th anniversary edition of the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon when he won at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in a European record of 59:32 on Sunday (22).
Farah lopped 20 seconds off the time set by Spain’s Fabian Roncero in 2001.
“It feels amazing, I got massive support from the crowd. It wasn’t easy, the race organisers put in a great field. To win here was hard but it’s my birthday tomorrow so it’s a good birthday present. I feel so happy to break the British record and European record,” commented Farah, who turns 32 on Monday.
The race was far from a time-trial for Farah, who had to battle all the way to the line.
He stayed off the pace being set by the Kenyan pair of Micah Kogo and Stephen Kibet, who took off after about eight kilometres into the race but from 16km onwards he gradually edged his way towards being on level terms with them just before 18km.
Kibet gradually started to slip back but his regular training partner and friend Kogo, from Kenya, gave no quarter.
The pair passed 20km in 56:27 - another European record for Farah as the previous best of 56:51 was also set by Roncero in his 2001 run - but in similar fashion to the Great North Run back in September, Kogo was finally beaten in the final 100 metres as Farah went through the gears and showed better finishing speed with the line in sight.
Less than a metre after he had finished, Farah took a dramatic tumble which demonstrated there was absolutely nothing left in the tank.
“My legs were so tied. Normally when you cross the line you step over the tape but I was so tired I couldn’t lift my legs and tripped over it!” Fortunately, Farah’s post-race injury only amounted to some slight bruising.
Farah has now won four of the six half marathons he has raced, coming second in the other two.
2016 world record challenge?
"The wind we felt in the first kilometre, and in the last, wasn’t a big problem. I felt I couldn’t do better today," Farah added later at the post-race the press conference. "If you invite me to return next year I’ll be able to challenge the world record."
Kogo finished just one second in arrears behind Great Britain’s double Olympic, world and European champion on the track in 59:34, his fastest run under record-eligible conditions, while Kibet was third in 59:55.
After the first three, it was then a long way back to Ethiopia’s Guye Adola in fourth place with 1:00:45.
Kenya’s Rose Chelimo won the women’s race in 1:08:22 with Portugal’s Sarah Moreira second in 1:09:18. Olympic marathon silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo from Kenya was third in 1:09:21, having been overtaken by the local star a few hundred metres from the line.
Chelimo was out in front from about eight kilometres into the race and was never headed, taking 31 seconds from her previous best set earlier this year.
“I expected to made a great performance in this race," said Chelimo. "I expected to reach the podium, but I only believe that it could be possible in the final kilometres, perhaps from 15km when I saw Priscah Jeptoo going back, and then I forced myself to win."
Phil Minshull and Antonio Fernandes for the IAAF
1. Mo Farah (GBR) 59:32
2. Micah Kogo (KEN) 59:33
3. Stephen Kibet (KEN) 59:58
4. Guye Adola (ETH) 1:00:45
5. Edwin Kipyego (KEN) 1:01:48
6. Kevin Kochei (KEN) 1:01:56
7. Sahlesilassie Nigussie Meketa (ETH) 1:02:16
9. Silas Kipruto (KEN) 1:03:19
10. Ezekiel Chepkorom (UGA) 1:03:30
1. Rose Chelimo (KEN) 1:08:22
2. Sara Moreira (POR) 1:09:18
3. Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 1:09:21
4. Purity Cherotich Rionoripo (KEN) 1:10:24
5. Ana Dulce Felix (POR) 1:10:27
6. Doris Changeywo (KEN) 1:11:54
7. Koren Jelela (ETH) 1:11:55
8. Workenesh Edesa (ETH) 1:12:00
9. Pauline Wanjiku (KEN) 1:12:09
10. Jane Jepkosgei (KEN) 1:12:55