On January 7, 2017, Mo Farah made his last appearance at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country International. The course, with mud, tall grass, Scottish winter weather, and some of the finest cross country runners in British athletics, Europe and the U.S.A. The battles between Mo Farah and a cast of rising stars has made this race over the past decade.
The Edinburgh Cross Country shows that fans and media will support purely competitive events like the Great Run hosts in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Cross country is a building block for top distance runners, from 800 meters to the proverbial marathon. But now, Mo Farah, is moving up, as he and his coach noted years ago. For Mo Farah, the future is on the roads....
Mo Farah has dominated global championships over 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters since his battles in Daegu, South Korea in 2011. His 5000 meters, his battle over 12.5 laps, showed his talent, after his silver medal in the 10,000 meters in Daegu.
Truth is, Mo Farah showed his real promise with the 2010 European Championships, showing a growing ability to finish tough over the last 1000 to 2000 meters.
Since then, Mo Farah has won the London 2012 Olympic Games for 5000 meters and 10,000 meters. Then, he won the 5,000 meters and 10,0000 meters in Moscow 2013, Beijing 2015 and Rio 2016.
In my mind, if Mo Farah was going to be beat, it would have been at the 2014 European Championships, where he won the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters after his debut marathon in London in April 2014. Mo Farah gave anyone who could have chased him down a chance to take him on. They tried, but, that was as far as they got.
But, it is in his combination of strength and speed. His detachment over the first four to six kilometers, and his focus over the final four kilometers. It is both art and science. Mo Farah and his coach, Alberto Salazar, have found a system that works uniquely for his skill set. I have watched athletes try and break him over the past eight years, and only one has been successful on the track.
That strength, developed over years of elevating training and an attention to details, will help him as Mo Farah focuses on road running. Can he break the world record over the half marathon or marathon? Not sure. Do not really care. I believe that our obsession with fast times hurts the sport. I want to, personally, see close races and battles for the final positions.
A 10,000 meter race in a championship race is like a chess match. And, since 2010, Mo Farah has developed his skill set to race anyone and everyone over the track. His placing in Edinburgh yesterday was more about a man in high training than someone not ready to race. Mo Farah has the ability, skill and focus to wind up the last kilometer, and put the last 800 meters into a range that puts the pretenders off the back and brings it down to who can try and handle Farah's intense last 700 meters, where each hundred meters sees an increase in pace.
Mo Farah has become a global star in our sport. Like Usain Bolt, Farah has his fans on a global level. He has handled tangles with the media off the track as deftly as he has handled his falls and his challenges on the track.
Cross country has been part of his development as a major force in our sport. Farah told the media (among them, Athletics Weekly) in Edinburgh yesterday: "I think it's going to be pretty much my last cross country because I have to be able to plan for the road. I'm lucky to have had the career I've had and at some point everything has to come to an end. It's not what I want to do but at the same time I feel it's right. I'd like to be able to see what I can do at the World Champs and then I want to move to the marathon,".
We wish Mo Farah the very best as he moves to the next stage of his career. Mo Farah has had much success over the half marathon distance and had a good debut over the marathon distance.
It will be fascinating to see how, after London 2017, that Mo Farah fares on the roads. This was inevitable, but sad to see such a fun era ending. Nice to see the high quality of young British male and female athletes developing, especially Laura Muir (she had a fine 5000m British record last week).
The World Championships in London will be a celebration of all things athletics. And after Mo Farah takes on this last challenge on the track, watch for his move to road racing.