Mo Farah became the first athlete to win four consecutive titles at the Simplyhealth Great North Run, while Mary Keitany became the event’s third three-time winner of the women’s race in South Shields on Sunday (10).
Keitany led from the front, dropping first Kipkirui as the leaders cruised through five kilometres in 16:01, then Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot beyond halfway. Keitany then produced a masterclass in front-running to win in 1:05:59, finishing almost two minutes ahead of defending champion Cheruiyot (1:07:44) with Kipkirui hanging on to finish third in 1:09:52.
Keitany has been in the form of her life this year. The Kenyan started 2017 with a half-marathon PB of 1:05:13 and went on to win the London Marathon in a women-only world record of 2:17:01. She warmed up for the Great North Run by setting a 10km PB of 30:41 in Maine, USA, last month.
“It was great for me to come again, and win for the third time,” said Keitany, who now joins Liz McColgan and Lisa Martin as the only women to win three times at the Great North Run. “Today it was not easy but I tried my best. At times it was too windy, it affected my sight, and because I was alone I thought I’d be distracted by the wind.
“I’m really happy just to come and cross the line first, so I’m thankful for this opportunity,” she added. “I’m very excited to win and to maybe come again.”
Kenyan women filled the top five places with Magdalyne Masai taking fourth in 1:10:39 and Betsy Saina finishing fifth in 1:11:25. Gemma Steel was the top British finisher, placing sixth in 1:11:32.
While Keitany’s winning time was the fourth fastest across the event’s 37 editions, Farah’s victory drew the biggest response from the crowds.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist completed a quartet of victories to match the record set by the late Benson Masya in the 1990s. Farah, though, is the first athlete to win in four consecutive years.
The early stages saw Farah joined by last year’s runner-up Dathan Ritzenhein along with Bernard Lagat, Olympic marathon silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa and twin brothers Zane and Jake Robertson of New Zealand, passing through five kilometres in 14:31 and 10 kilometres in 29:19.
While Ritzenhein took his share of leading, Jake Robertson and Farah broke clear of the rest of the field soon after passing 15 kilometres in 43:19, with Jake leading through the final four kilometres heading on to the South Shields coast.
Farah stayed on Robertson’s shoulder though, and with 400 metres to go he showed his trademark kick to ease home. Farah won in 1:00:06, six seconds ahead of Jake Robertson. It’s the first time since 2011 that Jake had beaten his twin brother Zane, who finished fourth in 1:01:42.
Lilesa finished in between the Robertson brothers in third in 1:01:32. Japan’s Hiroyuki Yamamoto placed fifth in 1:02:03.
“It was an amazing race,” said Farah. “Jake pushed the pace on and tried to get rid of me. He almost got rid of me, I wasn’t going to tell him that, but he almost got rid of me with three miles to go because I was hurting. I just had to dig deep.”
Organisers and Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF