Great Britain’s most successful track athlete hangs up spikes after career spanning three decades

Mo Farah compared his last ever professional race to the support he received around London 2012, as the four-time Olympic and six-time champion bowed out at the AJ Bell Great North Run.

A six-time winner of the Great North Run, it wasn’t surprising to see Farah end his competitive career on the roads of South Shields.

The 40-year-old announced in April that he was retiring and that the race in the North-East would be his last hurrah.

Since that decision, Farah ran 2:10:28 to finish ninth at the London Marathon, clocked a UK M40 record of 62:43 for fourth at the Big Half and was in that same position over the half-marathon again, at the Great North Run.

His time was 63:28 and broke down to 4:51min/mile. Some going for a guy who is 40.

“Honestly, this is it, I’m talking to you as a retired man,” Farah said, after receiving applause from both the packed out crowd and his fellow athletes. “It was very emotional and the last couple of days I was trying to sync it all in. I slept on it last night and didn’t get much sleep. It reminded me a bit like 2012 with the people and it’s been a joy.

“I think this is the right time [to retire]. I’ve found it tough over the past couple of years with my body and not being able to do what I did. To be the best you’ve got to commit and run 100 miles a week and over the past couple of years I’ve struggled to do that.

“It’s really important to me to be honest and that if I’m not able to be competitive and win medals for my country then you’ve got to retire.

“I’ve achieved so much on the track and in both the half-marathon and marathon so I’ve got nothing more to prove”

Mo Farah at London 2012 (Mark Shearman)

Farah’s first ever taste of racing on the roads in the UK came as a 12-year-old back in 1995 when he finished 10th at the Mini London Marathon, completing the 4km circuit in 16:00.

He has won four Olympic gold medals, claimed six world titles and become European champion on five occasions.

Statistically, no male track distance runner has more major global titles to their name and Farah is also the most successful British track athlete in Olympic history.

“I will always run and it’s in my DNA,” Farah added. “It’s something that makes me happy and as you know running is what saved me from the child I was. You all know my background from the documentary that I was trafficked into the UK and running was what saved me.

“First I got a chance to run for England and then you want to represent Great Britain. To do that at a junior and senior level, and to then go beyond to win medals at championships has been incredible.

“To all the kids I want to say that. you should enjoy yourself. There will be hurdles but keep believing, grafting and working hard. Myself, as a kid, I didn’t know what I was capable of until I was training with the top guys and thinking that I could be as good as them. So go out there and commit.”

Such was his competitiveness, Farah also stated he wanted to win a seventh Great North Run title and also praised 2022 world champion and winner of the race Tamirat Tola.

The Ethiopian, running in a striking September heatwave across the UK, went under one hour and clocked 59:58.

Tola won by one minute and 22 seconds from runner-up Bashir Abdi, who has been part of the same training group with Farah out in Font-Romeu.

Jepchirchir shows why she’s an Olympic champion

Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir beat New York City Marathon winner Sharon Lokedi to take the women’s Great North Run crown.

Jepchirchir, whose only race this season was at the London Marathon – she finished third in 2:18:18 – in April, was comfortable and her 66:45 was enough to see off Lokedi by 57 seconds.

Both Jepchirchir and Lokedi went through 5km in 15:34 before the former made a move and by 10km had established a 16-second gap. She never looked back.

Jepchirchir’s class showed and it wasn’t surprising given the Kenyan broke the mixed half-marathon world record in 2017 and then ran a women’s only world record over the distance twice three years ago. Letesenbet Gidey holds the current mark at 62:52.

Charlotte Purdue was the highest placed Brit in either of the elite races and clocked 69:36.

She is planning to run Berlin Marathon on September 24.

“I knew it was going to be a testing race given the heat,” Purdue told AW. “I ran pretty much the whole way alone and I didn’t have a lot to go off. I ran a strong race and didn’t want to dig a hole as I’m running the Berlin Marathon in two weeks.

“I had a bit of a rough start to the year and coming back from Font-Romeu, I’ve been in good shape. I just wanted to put a good performance out there.

“Last year in London I got food poisoning out and it really wiped me out. I had to take some time out after that and my body was really wrecked. At the start of the year I also got two injuries there as well and had to fly back.

“It was a rough start to the year and I’m feeling better now. You have to take the good with the bad and I’m hoping for a good race in Berlin!”

Kinghorn and Sidbury top the podium

Samantha Kinghorn continued to go from strength to strength this season as she added yet another major accolade to her CV.

The 27-year-old shone on the track at July’s World Para Athletics Championships in Paris and became world T53 100m champion, as well as claiming two silvers in the 400m and 800m.

Then, at the Big Half in London, Kinghorn one by tenth of a second from Eden Rainbow-Cooper in a photo finish.

This victory in South Shields was more comprehensive and the margin of victory was an astonishing two minutes and 24 seconds.

Kinghorn clocked 49:21 but missed out on Manuela Schar’s course record of 48:44.

Danny Sidbury continued his stellar 2023 season with victory in the elite men’s wheelchair race. He recorded a time of 42:48 and won by an astonishing one minute and 27 seconds to David Weir.

Weir’s course record of 41:19 from 2018 still stands but Sidbury was on trajectory to getting close to it up until the final 5km.

For Sidbury, a first ever Great North win triumph marks another stellar achievement in a season littered with success.

The 29-year-old claimed world T54 bronze medals in both the 800m and 5000m at the World Para Athletics Championships.

Travel chaos 

Towards the end of the Great North Run – at least a couple of hours after the elite athletes had finished – a storm created chaotic scenes as thousands of runners trying to leave the Great North Run were left stranded.

With roads and the metro flooded, pretty much everything came to a standstill and there were queues of vehicles going miles back towards both Sunderland and Newcastle.

It wasn’t surprising to see such ferocious weather given the sky had blackened to such an extent it was like day turned to night.

The rainstorm that ensued prompted some of the 60,000 runners yet to finish to sprint across the line and find shelter wherever possible.

Afterwards, it meant that some runners had to walk from South Shields back to either Sunderland or Newcastle – a six to seven mile trip in both directions.

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