07 Sep GNR: The latest episode in the constructed reality of Mo Farah

By Chris Rainsford

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)

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  • Adam Guy

    What a load of rubbish. You are just a spiteful hater. Has Mo had a good year then? Erm, no he hasn’t. Has Mo fallen ill several times, lost several races? Yes he has. One of which was last years GNR in a thrilling last few miles with 3 of the best ever distance runners. I was lucky enough to hear his coach Alberto speak a week ago, and before you tut and write an article on performance enhancing drugs while jumping on the nearest haters bandwagon, you may be interested to know that in the last 5 years Farah hasn’t a proper break and his training regime is extraordinary.

    On his climb to the top of the athletics world Farah has had a lot of help from a lot of people such as Ian Stewart, Brendan Foster, David Bedford etc etc. The thing with Farah, a working class boy from North London, I stress this as most of UK athletics is written about and ran by posh middle class twits, has a huge respect for the people that helped him to the top. Therefore he most likely agrees to run events like the Diamond League, Birmingham and the GNR as payback. An offer of a pacer from his own training camp or management company is not something to be sniffed at either – who wouldn’t take it. Oh, you wouldn’t! The greatest runner we’ve got, not. It didn’t make the race boring. The crowd and the TV audience still got to see a race with our World, European and Olympic Champion in it. Most athletes such as Bolt called an end to their season but Farah stays true to the sport and kicks on.

    Your article is lame and cheap. Go out and run 130+ miles a week mostly at altitude with 2 track sessions a week, and lots of other quality running for 5 years and see if you are still racing and winning the most difficult races in the world. Then write another bitchy article about the greatest ever British runner.

  • QuangoED

    Mo is vulnerable to a true run pace as he goes up distances. He struggles a bit on downhill stretches. He has the road/x-c background but focused mainly on track for several years. He’s working to reduce his bouncy/rolling style to suit his new events/style.

    He’s has a good couple of years transitioning back. He can’t be too disappointed with times. He could be No.1 again at these new events but track success offers no guarantees. The non-athletic guys I know are surprised when Mo loses, but often those loses are true to form.

    Paced races for Mo can be unfair to other competitors because it can mess with their winning strategy. I’m not in favour of pacemaking for any open race.

    Mo is a proven racer. Age wise, time might be against him. IMO, 2012 olympic double is what he’ll be remembered for. If he repeats it off the track it’s icing on the cake. “Team Mo” might want to shield their athlete from defeat but I suspect Mo would take on allcomers. He might want to step back and work his way back to the top but that would just be a tactical delay.

  • QuangoED

    I never watched the GNR so can’t comment on the race. Here’s motor racings version of race fixing.

  • Fred

    since when did a 2:08 marathon become disastrous?

  • QuangoED

    Fred, when Mo finishes knackered in a quality 60.01, then “Team Mo” tells him to do another rep in 67.59 with no recovery. That would be a disastrous 2.08 marathon. It would be a laugh to watch but a very painful run for Mo. I’d do it as an April Fools joke just to make up for Mo collecting pay for running half the full marathon. I’d use Jason Scotland-Williams to catch up and pace Mo for the second half.

  • QuangoED

    In the context of article his “disastrous but lucrative debut” was of the non-athletic variety.

    “””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.”””

  • Bill

    This is ridiculous. To suggest that Mo “cheated” is utterly ludicrous. Runners will often work together in races, and this year’s GNR exemplified that. However, there was no doubt about the sprint finish being genuine. If anything I think criticisms of Mo in this race are motivated by jealousy at his hard won success. To give an example of pacing in a competitive race i.e. championship, look back to the men’s 10,000m in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Two Kenyans are clearly pacing Paul Tergat, to set him up against Haile Gebrselassie. Korir sets a fast pace to separate a front pack from the rest of the field, and makes the pace fast to push the injured Haile, and to create optimal conditions for Tergat to win Gold. Tergat did not win Gold, nor was Korir cheating in sacrificing himself to pace his elder team mate. The latter race under your categorisation would be cheating, but under that same categorisation Mo’s is not.