There was a trio of British successes at the Great North Run as double world champion Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar) ran the fastest-ever half marathon time by a Briton; his 59:22 clocking beat his previous best he set in Lisbon earlier this year. There were also convincing wins for David Weir (Jenny Archer) and Shelly Woods (Archer) in the elite wheelchair races in the North East.
Farah joined nearly 57,000 runners at the iconic half marathon event, and was made to work hard for the win after a fascinating duel with Kenya’s Stanley Biwott. However, the multiple global medallist used his trademark sprint finish to pull away with 150m to go and defend his title at the 35th edition of the event.
Farah, who defended his title from 2014 was delighted to finish the season with victory in the North East: “My aim was to win the race, I wasn’t really thinking about the time. He definitely made me work hard today and tested me. He was trying to get rid of me (over the last couple of miles) and credit to him. With two miles to go, I was really hurting but he slowed down a bit near the end and I was strong mentally.”
The course is slightly downhill so it will not count as an official British record but it was an entertaining contest over the 13.1 mile course. After nine miles, Farah and Biwott made a race defining move as they split up a group of four which contained last year’s second place athlete Mike Kigen and Stephen Mokoka. Over the last few miles, Biwott opened up a 15m lead on the double world champion on a couple of occasions, however, Farah showed his class to beat Biwott by two seconds and end his season on a high.
On his burst of speed down the hill at the 12 mile mark, he said: “I was just trying to push him to see how much energy he had because at that point I was pretty tired. I knew that pace wasn’t going to keep up over the last mile and I’d have the pace at the end.”
“The crowd have been amazing. I’m very grateful that everyone came out, it made a big difference for me today.”
Mary Keitany comfortably retained her Great North Run title in the elite women’s race, posting a time of 67:32. The Kenyan, who broke Paula Radcliffe’s course record last year, was well outside that pace this time around. However, she ran alone for the majority of the race after taking a lead after the first mile and earned another victory in the north east.
Gemma Steel (John Nuttall) moved away from the chasing pack after five miles and ran a lonely race to secure her second consecutive second place finish at the event, recording 71:00. Sunderland Stroller Aly Dixon enjoyed the loud cheers in the closing stages as she grabbed a fantastic fourth place in 72:07 behind Latvia’s Jelena Prokopcuka.
David Weir (Jenny Archer) won a record-equalling sixth Great North Run title in the elite men’s wheelchair race. The Paralympic champion added to his titles from 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2013 to match Dave Holding’s record set between 1988 and 1996. The Londoner led early on and never looked back to seal victory in South Shields in a time of 42:46. Local athlete Simon Lawson (Ian Thompson) secured second place in 44:44.
Weir commented afterwards: “It was pretty good – I had a bit of a problem in the first few miles with stomach cramp so that slowed me down a bit. I thought I could have broken the British record today but it was a fun event and still pretty fast. It gives me massive confidence ahead of the IPC World Championships in Doha.”
Shelly Woods (Jenny Archer) closed in on Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record at the event as she collected her seventh title in the north east after overhauling America’s Amanda McGrory and Dutch athlete Margriet Van Den Broek over the last couple of miles.
Woods, who recorded a time of 53:38 said: “This was my hardest Great North Run, in fact it was my hardest race in a long time but I’m really pleased with the result. I was just trying to close the gap down on the Dutch athlete (Van Den Broek). I was just thinking, ‘don’t; look behind, stay positive and chase her down’. She unfortunately crashed on the corner on to the seafront which was a shame as I was ready with my sprint finish.”
Full results will be on the Great Run website later today: https://www.greatrun.org/myresults
Highlights of the Great North Run are on BBC 2 at 18:00 this evening.