How to stop Mo Farah, we wondered in our preview of the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015.
The answer, for an incredible sixth time in a row at a global championship, was – you don’t.
World cross-country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, runner-up Bedan Karoki and Paul Tanui talked up a concerted Kenyan attack. And they delivered. Despite throwing everything they had at Farah – and a little more dredged up from their innermost reserves – Farah ran away from them at the end to successfully defend the title he won in Moscow two years ago in 27:01.13.
It was close. A last-lap stumble as the leaders rounded up some lapped runners momentarily put Farah off balance. Quick as a cat, he recovered his poise and held the lead all around the final circuit.
Kamworor was second in 27:01.76, Tanui third in 27:02.83 and Karoki fourth in 27:04.77. It was a matter of metres only, but as so often with Farah, he made such a tiny gap appear absolutely unbridgeable.
Let’s consider some numbers: it is the sixth consecutive global track distance title for Farah – an unprecedented achievement among those who had run the distance double. The string started with his 5000m triumph in Daegu in 2011 (after narrowly losing the 10,000m to Ibarhim Jeilan), continued with distance doubles at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships, and now is extended with this win.
No other runner has more than four consecutive wins at both championship distances.
Farah’s was the third-fastest World Championships win in history. Kenenisa Bekele’s championship record of 26:46.31 stands from Berlin in 2009 and he ran 26:49.57 to win in Paris in 2003.
If Farah did not get Bekele’s number there, he did break his stadium record. The Ethiopian ran an Olympic record of 27:01.17 in winning in the Bird’s Nest in 2008; Farah edged that by 0.04 on Saturday night. Conditions were pretty much on a par.
One statistic that is a measure of Farah’s extraordinary progress to the peak of track distance running is that at those same Games he was run out in the heats of the 5000m in 13:50.95. On Saturday night, he ran faster than that for two consecutive 5000m splits – 13:40 and 13:21 in round figures.
Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp – fifth in 27:08.91 – aside, no one else in the field of 27 was able to keep close to the top four. Ethiopia’s Imane Merga was there for more than half the distance but dropped back, and then out.
The race started in expected manner, the Kenyan trio straight to the front, Farah dropping almost to the absolute back of the pack. The pace quickened in the second 1000m, which was covered in 2:39.90, with Rupp and Farah both moving up into contention as soon as it slowed again in the third kilometre.
The US runner and the Briton moved past Merga coming up to 6000m and the race was on from that point. Somehow Kamworor and his mates had to find a way of drawing Farah’s finishing kick – a difficult task as the heat and humidity took their toll.
Once or twice Farah teased his rivals by moving to the front. Each time Kamworor immediately shut down the move, but it was a timely psychological reminder: “I’m still here; I’ve still got plenty of zip in my legs.”
Farah again led briefly with three laps to go. This time Kamworor responded with the fastest lap of the race up to that point – 61.79 seconds – but Farah remained resolute at his heels. Another sub-62 lap took them to the bell.
Was it enough? Nearly, but not quite. Farah again edged into the lead at the bell. Despite the stumble, despite the desperate efforts of Kamworor and Tanui to get on terms, he raced on into championship history. His last lap flashed by in 54.14 seconds, mishap and all.
Six in a row and a seventh beckons in the 5000m, for which the heats will be conducted on Wednesday morning. Maybe the early start might faze Farah. Unlikely, but it appears just as unlikely anything else will either.
Len Johnson for the IAAF