07 Sep GNR: The latest episode in the constructed reality of Mo Farah
Mo Farah has become the fastest British man of all-time over 13.1 miles and the first British winner of the Great North Run since Steve Kenyon in 1985. However, whilst the quality of his 60:00-dead winning time should not be questioned, the way he was apparently paced to victory by Mike Kigen and allowed to win ultimately made a mockery of the milestone #GNRMillion running of the great event.
It’s a shame that the setting of Newcastle now seems most-fitting for the latest episode of the Mo Farah constructed-reality show for his victory that was decided in the final kilometre appeared just as scripted – and distasteful – as the television show Geordie Shore.
Kigen – a fifth-place finisher at the 2006 World Cross and with a half marathon best of 59:58 – forged ahead with Farah in tow and the pair dropped successive sub-4:30 miles between miles six to nine. They disposed of any threat from the rest of the field as planned but, whilst Kigen looked strong and gained a few yards, Farah grimaced and appeared to struggle.
I suppose we’ll never know how strong and capable Kigen might have been if he’d taken advantage and kicked clear in the final quarter but alas, he waited for Farah in the final kilometre, the pair exchanged a few words and Farah hit the front.
Kigen was a competitor within the race but his duty ultimately seemed to be one of pacemaking. Farah did indeed have to “dig deep” – but for that sub-60 minute time that proved tantalisingly out of reach rather than for the victory. Perhaps the sight of the ticking clock and the time slipping by was what inspired Kigen – Farah’s training partner and fellow-PACE Sports Management athlete – to keep the pressure on but Farah needn’t have panicked.
“The crowds love Mo Farah as well. He’s been a big star today, winning the race by the narrowest of margins – but the important thing is that he won and he came and he entertained everybody supremely well. There’ll be a few selfies out there too with Mo.”
Steve Cram’s words on commentary summed-up perfectly the point of this year’s Great North Run with regards to where Mo Farah and his career are concerned. Sport is entertainment but gone are the thrills of open competition (and a potential Farah upset) and in its place have come constructed races that seem built entirely with ‘brand-Mo’ in mind.
Since his double-World Championship victory in Moscow a year ago, Farah’s recent-story has been Hollywood-esque in the rise and fall and rise again of a great champion. Like the character in his own constructed-reality television programme, Farah’s racing over the past twelve months has reflected this ‘Hollywood’ narrative and victory at the Great North Run was the final act of redemption at the end of a year that has seen him not win on three occasions.
From finishing second to Kenenisa Bekele at the GNR last year and his ‘disastrous’ but lucrative debut in London to the will he/won’t he and non-participation in Glasgow and double-European Championship gold last month, full-redemption couldn’t be reached until he returned to winning ways on British shores and on the roads where the popularity of the sport lies in the minds of the British public.
He succeeded in doing just that, but at the seeming detriment to fair and honest competition – and to the indignation of well-known voices within British athletics on Twitter. But Farah is only human and the public shouldn’t be played to think otherwise. The sport should remain impermeable to the blurring of reality and fiction but we have been led down the garden path to a place where staging a Farah victory for the selfie-generation appears more important than the integrity of the competition.
Image credit: Dan Vernon (Twitter)
Article also appears on www.theoutsidelane.org