Distance running legend favoured to triumph at Müller British 10,000m Champs and European Cup but Marc Scott and others will be biting at his heels with Olympic selection at stake
On Saturday June 5 in Birmingham the four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah tackles his first 10,000m track race since August 2017. His goal will be to qualify for the Olympics, but to win the race he will have to beat rising British star Marc Scott and reigning European champion Morhad Amdouni of France. It has the makings of one of the races of the year.
At his peak Farah would probably have breezed to victory. Now aged 38, though, he will have to bring his A-game if he wants to see off his younger rivals. Has the passing of time and his dalliance with the marathon blunted his speed? We will find out in a few days’ time.
The event contains two main elements – the European Cup for 10,000m and the British Olympic trials for the distance. It was due to be held in north London at the Night of the 10,000m PBs event, but the pandemic put paid to those plans and instead it has been moved to the University of Birmingham track in the West Midlands.
Luke Gunn, head of athletics at the university, says the event is “on loan” to Birmingham for a year and he has received help and advice from Night of the 10,000m PBs organiser Ben Pochee. Unlike the popular north London event, though, there will be no spectators on June 5, although it will be streamed live on the British Athletics website – CLICK HERE
Farah has been preparing in Arizona for the race. Similarly, Scott is based in the United States as part of the Nike Bowerman Track Club and the Yorkshireman has been in fine form lately with 7:36.08 for 3000m, 13:05.13 for 5000m and 27:10.41 for 10,000m this year – the latter lifting him to No.2 on the UK all-time rankings behind Farah’s national record of 26:46.57.
Farah’s best was set 10 years ago, though, and Scott is quietly confident of beating the Olympic champion and the Yorkshireman says he is in better shape than when he ran his PB in California in February. So if Farah has lost a little of his speed in the past four years and if Scott is on form, we could witness a ‘changing of the guard’ moment.
Sadly another rising British talent, Sam Atkin, will not be in Birmingham now, though. The US-based Briton enjoyed a big breakthrough with 27:26.58 in December to go No.5 on the UK all-time lists. But he has chosen to stay in America and has been replaced in the GB team by Matt Leach.
It’s not just all about Farah and Scott, though. Amdouni has a best of 27:36.80, which was set when he was a close second to Richard Ringer of Germany in the European Cup 10,000m in London in 2018.
Bashir Abdi, who owns a near-identical PB to the Frenchman with 27:36.40, is another contender. The Somalia-born Belgian athlete is one of Farah’s training partners and he won European 10,000m silver behind Amdouni in 2018.
Yet if you’re looking for a dark horse to cause an upset then this could be Cardiff runner Jake Smith. After running 60:31 at the World Half Marathon Championships last autumn, he ran 2:11:00 for the marathon recently despite only starting off as a mere pacemaker. However, after finishing 14th in the 5000m at the Diamond League in Gateshead this month in 13:38.01, it suggests he might struggle for pace in Birmingham.
That pace will be tough throughout as well. Wavelight technology is being used to help the runners stay just inside the Olympic qualifying standard and it will operate at 27:20 tempo. There will also be two human pacemakers as well in the shape of Sean Tobin and David McNeill.
For slightly slower athletes, incidentally, there will also be Wavelight pacing to help them crack the 28-minute barrier.
Athletes from 26 nations are expected to compete and, as always, Spain will have a strong team. This time it includes Carlos Mayo and Juan Antonio Perez, the latter having clocked 27:46.08 this season. Reigning European Cup champion Yeman Crippa of Italy will not be in Birmingham, though.
Farah is not entirely rusty, of course. He stretched his legs to win the Djibouti Half-Marathon in March in 63:06. Last September he set a world record for the one-hour run in Brussels, too, whereas a few days later he beat Scott by 12 seconds in the Antrim Coast Half-Marathon in Northern Ireland with 60:27.
In addition to being reigning Olympic champion at 5000m and 10,000m, he has won 10 global track titles in the past decade and is keen to end his career with another Olympic title in Tokyo.
As well as the GB team athletes, there are further domestic entries such as Mo Aadan, Phil Seseman and Hugo Milner, whereas the men’s B race includes Ellis Cross, Matt Clowes, Josh Griffiths and Calum Johnson among others.
McColgan leads women’s entries
Eilish McColgan is the quickest on paper with a recent 30:58.94 in California which lifted her to No.5 on the UK all-time rankings. Almost exactly 30 years since her mum, Liz, won the world title in Tokyo, Eilish will hope to book her Olympic spot in the GB team to the same city this year.
She faces a competitive line-up, though, which includes fellow Brits Amy-Eloise Markovc, Verity Ockenden and Jess Judd. In March, Markovc won the European indoor 3000m title with Ockenden taking bronze. Then, in mid-May, Markovc finished less than a second outside the Olympic 10,000m qualifying standard with 31:25.91 in California, too, as Judd finished a fraction behind her in 31:25.98. Ockenden, meanwhile, ran a big 5000m PB of 15:03.51 in the US this month.
An intriguing entrant on the original start lists was Beth Potter, but sadly she now looks likely to compete in a World Triathlon series event in Leeds on Sunday (June 6). Since winning the British 10,000m title in 2017, Potter has become a member of the British Triathlon programme and focuses primarily on the swim-bike-run sport. Yet in early April she ran the fastest time ever recorded by a woman in a 5km road race with 14:41 and would have surely given McColgan and the other full-time runners a decent challenge.
As in the men’s race, there will be a new European Cup winner too as the reigning champion, Lonah Salpeter of Israel, is not racing. Brits aside, Albania’s Luiza Gega and Selamawit Teferi from Israel are also contenders, although most of the German team has withdrawn due to their government imposing a strict quarantine on their return.
Look out too for a number of British runners who have been allowed to compete despite not being part of one of the teams in the European Cup. Notably these include the talented Natasha Cockram and Charlotte Arter, who both raced at the British Olympic marathon trials in Kew Gardens in March with Cockram clocking 2:30:03 and Arter dropping out.
Other Brits in action in the women’s A race include Kate Avery, Beth Kidger, Clara Evans, Eleanor Bolton, Hannah Irwin and Mhairi Maclennan.
As for the pacing, Michelle Finn and Alison Cash – plus Wavelight technology – will take the leaders around at 31:20 speed whereas there is also Wavelight pacing for 32:15 pace.
The women’s B race, meanwhile, includes Brits such as Sarah Astin, Becky Briggs, Nicole Taylor and Annabel Gummow, plus runners from nations like Austria, Italy, Norway, Estonia and Lithuania.
For full entries, results and mid-race splits CLICK HERE
Olympic qualifying target: 27:28.00
Mo Farah (PB: 26:46.57)
Marc Scott (27:10.41)
Matt Leach (28:21.05)
Jake Smith (29:01.08)
Emile Cairess (28:14.30)
Kristian Jones (28:33.17)
Other leading contenders
Bashir Abdi (BEL) (27:36.40)
Morhad Amdouni (FRA) (27:36.80)
Iliass Aouani (ITA) (27:45.81)
Juan Antonio Perez (ESP) (27:46.08)
Francois Barrer (FRA) (27:55.95)
Florian Cavalho (FRA) (28:04.05)
Carlos Mayo (ESP) (28:48.41)
Mohamud Aadan (28:28.68)
Tom Anderson (29:14.30)
Phil Sesemann (debut)
James Hunt (28:59.63)
Mahamed Mahamed (29:01.34)
Hugo Milner (debut)
Olympic qualifying target: 31:25.00
Eilish McColgan (PB: 30:58.94)
Amy-Eloise Markovc (31:25.91)
Jenny Nesbitt (32:38.45)
Jess Judd (31:25.98)
Samantha Harrison (debut)
Verity Ockenden (32:34.47)
Other leading contenders
Selamawit Teferi (ISR) (31:43.72)
Jasmijn Lau (NED) (32:20.75)
Luiza Gega (ALB) (32:31.69)
Maitane Melero (ESP) (32:27.00)
Charlotte Arter (32:15.71)
Beth Kidger (debut)
Clara Evans (32:49.01)
Eleanor Bolton (debut)
Hannah Irwin (34:46.50)
Kate Avery (31:41.44)
Mhairi Maclennan (32:58.42)
Natasha Cockram (35:50.65)
5:30pm – Elite para 1500m
6.00pm – Men’s domestic 10,000m
7pm – Women’s 10,000m inc European Cup B race
7.45pm – Men’s 10,000m inc European Cup B race
8.30pm – Women’s 10,000m inc European Cup A race & British Olympic trials
9.15pm – Men’s 10,000m inc European Cup A race & British Olympic trials
9.45-10.30pm – presentations
(Note, this has changed slightly from the originally published timetable)
To watch the races live, CLICK HERE