Mo Farah came unstuck (or rather stuck) in the mud of Holyrood Park on Saturday as he took part in the Edinburgh Cross Country run, his first competitive meet of 2016. The UK’s most successful distance runner in history was pipped to the post by 3 times Edinburgh XC winner and American Cross Country Champion Garrett Heath, who finished 2 seconds faster than Farah in a sprint finish.
A far cry from his 2011 victory in the same race, Farah began at the back of the pack but made gains as the race progressed. Despite a disappointing upset in a moderate pack it is unlikely the Brit, who hopes to compete to prolong an already highly successful career in the 5,000 and 10,000m at Rio this summer, will get bogged down in the result beyond seeking to find where he can improve.
Ultimately, on a biting, dreich Edinburgh day, conditions were slippery and sub-par. Such a result could never aspire to be representative of what Farah can achieve when faced with a sprint finish on the track. In Farah’s own words to the BBC “”It is disappointing to lose but better to lose now than later in the year. I couldn’t really sprint – it was very slippery.” With such sub-par conditions, risking injury would been foolish given the long road to Rio that stretches ahead.
It is clear that Rio continues to be his main focus. Farah returned to the UK from his home in Portland for only a brief period of time before jetting off to a 6 week altitude training camp in Ethiopia. His regime is rigorous and, as you would expect, meticulously planned. In February Mo returns to British soil to compete in the 3000M at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix, before he competes a further 6 times in a variety of events from half-marathons to the Manchester 10km. Every race is undertaken is done so with the aim of reaching his peak during the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
After all, Farah, no longer the spring chicken he once was, had a wearing 2015. Psychologically the past year must have been difficult. Dogged by controversy about his coach Alberto Salazar, who is currently being investigated by USADA over alleged doping offences, Farah has been blunt about his no tolerance approach to drugs and demands for more stringent testing. It seems as if the man hopes his exploits in the summer will provide his return to the spotlight in less wrangling circumstances.
Farah made clear his intentions in Edinburgh before the race. The poster boy of London 2012 told the BBC he “just want[s] to get into that racing mind[set] again.” For the man who arrived in London from Mogadishu, Somalia aged 8, the 8km race will act as a barometer with which he could assess where he stood as an athlete. Nevertheless, though Mo slipped up in his first race of 2016 it would be a mistake to place too much emphasis on such an outcome.
Image courtesy of Anthony Benoit for The Student Sport.