The 1500m at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on Friday (19) may not have been a Diamond Race event, but for Mo Farah it was a diamond of a race as he became only the third man after Paavo Nurmi and Sandor Iharos to hold the European 1500m and 10,000m records simultaneously with a time of 3:28.81.
After chasing home Kenya’s 2008 Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop – whose time of 3:27.72 made him the fourth-fastest metric miler of all time in a list headed by Hicham El Guerrouj’s World record of 3:26.00 – Britain’s Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion seemed dazed with happiness as he reflected upon his achievement, sweat beading on his brow, dazzling teeth flashing as smiles came irresistibly to him.
“Can you believe it?” said Farah, who was using the race to sharpen up for his likely attempts to win the 5000m/10,000m double at next month’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, a double which eluded him in Daegu two years ago when he had to settle for silver in the 10,000m. “I had a really great session the other day while I was training in St Moritz, so I knew I was capable of running 3:30.
“Having had a chat to my coach Alberto (Salazar), I knew that I was capable of running 3:30 on the right day and in the right race but, honestly, I didn’t think I would run that fast.”
Kiprop had a 20-metre lead over the rest of the field, led by the smaller figure of the Briton, as he came around the final bend. But Farah closed up in the finishing straight to finish only a few strides adrift of the tall and upright Kenyan, thus breaking the European record of 3:28.95 set by Spain’s Fermin Cacho in 1997, and the British record of 3:29.67 set just along the coast in Nice in 1985 by Steve Cram – commentating here for BBC TV.
For Farah, who had said on the day before the race that he was hoping to match or narrowly better the 1500m best of 3:33.98 he set on this track in 2009, it was an astounding result – Kiprop described it as “crazy” – and one which will give his potential rivals in Moscow more to worry about.
The time puts Farah sixth on the world all-time 1500m list, and he is only the third Briton to have bettered 3:30 along with Cram and Sebastian Coe.
“I thought I was maybe capable of going under 3:30 but I didn’t think I was going to run 3:28,” Farah added. “I was winding Crammy up because he was saying, 'just don’t break my record’ and I was saying, 'I feel good, I feel good.’ I like Steve a lot and I didn’t want to break it!
“It’s great. But I remember talking to Hicham El Guerrouj’s coach in 2005 and he said to me I should be a 1500m runner, just because my style suits the race. Even though I do 5000m and 10,000m now and over the years I have been doing longer stuff, I have been able to work on my speed and just continue so I do everything – long, short – and that’s been the difference. And for me I am really pleased to have actually run that fast.
“The 1500m is a different challenge. In the changing room it was weird, the feeling in my body and the adrenaline.”
A performance which ended with a 54-second lap will have chilled his 5000m and 10,000m rivals, although Edwin Soi of Kenya, who beat Farah over 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene last month, offered evidence that the Briton will be far from having things his own way in Moscow as he won the Monaco 5000m in 12:51.34, the fastest time run this year.
Asked what impact he thought his performance would have on his rivals, Farah responded: “I hope it makes them think. It’s just great for me because they know I have the speed now, so I guess they have to do something in the race.
“But I don’t know – I remember when I lost in Daegu, I wanted to win and I tried so hard and I failed. Championships are a different race. Running fast times is easy, because you can get pacing from other people. But trying to win a medal is a lot harder than just running a fast time.”
Asked if he was in the shape of his life, Farah confirmed it with another flashing grin. “I am,” he said. “I need to back off a bit right now! No, I haven’t peaked too early. But you have to listen to your body, and sometimes when you do well – I learned a lot of lessons in 2008 because I over-trained.”
The prospect of running a championship 1500m race is clearly an option for Farah now – but he seemed fazed by the suggestion. “I’m not sure. I’m doing the London Marathon next year, aren’t I? I have never been so happy with life and I think running is part being happy, getting enjoyment and being able to go out and do what you do.”
For Farah right now, the whole world is turning in a virtuous circle – of 400m in length.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF