YOU WORK in London. Even if you don’t live in London, you had to be proud of the city yesterday. Sparkling in spring sunshine and laying some of the ghosts of Boston to rest as 35,000 sped, strode and staggered their way towards the Mall and the finishing line in the marathon.
As had been pre-arranged, our man Mo decided to bale out at half-way, prompting conflicting verdicts on the wisdom of the double Olympic champion running to Tower Bridge and then heading for the hospitality tents.
A shrewd move you might say, if you’re among those who’ve endured the purgatory of those last few miles, hamstrings tight, lungs bursting, head spinning.
A bit of a con, say those who can’t see further than a big pay cheque. A tactical masterstroke if you are part of Team Farah, offering a tantalising glimpse of what might be to come in 12 months time, when the plan is for Mo to set sail for the Isle of Dogs and unchartered territory beyond.
The one certainty about Farah’s participation in half of the race is that while he was there, it was a lot more interesting than when he wasn’t. Men’s elite marathon running has become one of those spectacles that is utterly wondrous in its sheer relentlessness, and yet instantly forgettable once it’s over.
The last ten years in London have seen victories exclusively for athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia. International sport thrives on a diversity of competitors from different nations to sustain universal interest, and at the moment the dominance of athletes from the Rift Valley is making it hard to take more than a passing interest in the final outcome. Until the magical two-hour barrier comes within sight, this situation is unlikely to change. Unless Mo does something about it.
With unlimited respect for yesterday’s victor Tsegaye Kebede from Ethiopia, the eye of the neutral was drawn more towards the attempts to break various world records dressed as zombies, Roman soldiers, Santa Claus, and wait for it, an internal organ. (unspecified).
Farah as a serious contender changes the marathon landscape in an instant. Put aside his antecedents. He will offer a European slant on an African preserve. Could he really join the list of greats who have conquered the track and then the road?
Everyone involved in staging big city races and major championships will hope that yesterday’s hors d’oeuvres really is the precursor to a substantial helping of Mo the Marathon Man.