Mo Farah smashed the European 15km record on his way to a battling bronze in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff on Saturday (26 March). The British climate played its part in an extraordinary race in which the defending champion, Geoffrey Kamworor, recovered from a bad fall at the start to retain the men’s title.
Kamworor wore a cap with a peak the size of a duck-billed platypus’ beak and he started with all the grace of the comic Australian mammal on land as he slipped, or was clipped from behind, then scrambled on all fours before joining the lead pack within the first mile.
Kamworor’s missing headgear was the only obvious sign of the incident and at four miles Farah removed his own thermal beany as things were getting serious. So serious, in fact, that he was forced to let the leaders go as they blasted the mid-10k section in 27:31, world record pace, dragging Farah to the European 15k record (42:03).
In the final 5k the heaven’s opened and the wind blew, the BBC coverage was lost momentarily and Kamworor (59:10) finally broke the dogged resistance of his Kenyan team-mate, Bedan Karoki (59:36). Hats off to Farah, though, for sticking to his task and producing a trade-mark sprint for the bronze (59:59), leading GB to an excellent fourth team place behind Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Britain’s team success was ensured by Callum Hawkins (15th, 1:02.51) and Welsh Cross Country champion, Dewi Griffiths (27th, 1:04.10 PB) in their best team result for 23 years, just 42 seconds off the bronze. The final two GB athletes to finish were Ryan McLeod (45th, 1:06.13) and Matty Hynes (53rd, 1:03.37).
The women’s race had started earlier and enjoyed full coverage for 30 minutes, by which time the Kenyan quintet were dictating the pace at the front. The pace was hot but the prevalence of arm warmers showed the temperature was low. Aly Dixon led the GB team with a brave attempt to stay with the surprisingly large pack of around 20 runners.
Kenya’s team and individual dominance was no surprise but the identity of the winner was, as 22-year-old Peres Jepchirchir (1:07:31) sprinted to gold from pre-race favourites Cynthia Limo (1:07:34) and Mary Wacera (1:07:54).
Britain finished 11th overall with Aly Dixon (27th, 1:12.57), Charlotte Purdue (33rd, 1:13.20) and Tina Muir (49th, 1:15.12), on her international debut. Rachel Felton (63rd, 1:16.36) ran in support but Jenny Spink was forced to retire at the 15km point with a calf pull.
There were 12,068 finishers in 4:38:57 in the mass race behind the elite and the overall winners were Derek Hawkins (1:05:00) and Cardiff’s own Charlotte Arter (1:13:19). Full results can be viewed at the race website.