LONDON (Reuters) – Briton Mo Farah was given an unwelcome birthday surprise when he was robbed at his hotel in Addis Ababa last month, putting a damper on what he said had been an otherwise perfect preparation for Sunday’s London Marathon.
Athletics – London Marathon Preview Press Conference – The Tower Hotel, London, Britain – April 24, 2019 Great Britain’s Mo Farah during the press conference Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs
Farah, third last year and facing a monumental challenge to overcome Kenya’s world record holder and defending champion Eliud Kipchoge, said he had completed a really good block of training in Ethiopia.
“I couldn’t have asked for better,” he said. “There were just a couple of things.”
Asked to expand, the multiple Olympic and world champion over 10,000 meters and 5,000m on the track, said: “There was a problem at the hotel. Someone went into my bag and took some money and took a present my wife had got me (a watch), so that was disappointing when I’d been staying there so long.
“It was on my birthday,” added Farah, who turned 36 on March 23 and won the Chicago Marathon last year.
He will be center of attention for the home crowd and the BBC broadcasting the race. Yet, he is only the eighth-fastest man in the field and his best of 2:05.11 is almost four minutes adrift of Kipchoge’s – which would leave him almost a mile behind the Kenyan if they were to reproduce those times on Sunday.
Kipchoge set his astonishing world record of 2:01.39 when winning Berlin last year and is seeking an unprecedented fourth London triumph.
He told a news conference on Thursday that he had not raced since Berlin and had followed his usual preparation – a system that has served him well in a career that has seen him win 10 of his 11 marathons, including the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I like London, I’m fit and ready to compete,” he said, adding that he was still in discussions regarding what pace he will ask the pacemakers to set.
Farah said he fully respected Kipchoge’s talent and extraordinary record but added that he was learning all the time having switched to the roads in 2017 and was not turning up “expecting to finish third or fourth.”
“You look up to these guys, you have to learn from the best and I have learned from each race I’ve done,” Farah said.
“I think I could have gone 2.04-something in Chicago (where he set a European record of 2:05:11) but it was about winning the race.
“Last year in London when Eliud increased the pace at around 20 miles I went with it a bit but just felt tired and in my mind I felt ‘I cant keep that going’ and you end up taking it back a notch. But I am here to race and will give 100 percent as I always do.”
Farah said he had underestimated the volume of training required to convert his track speed into the extra endurance needed for 26.2 miles on the road, but that he was enjoying the challenge.
“The most important thing is that I’m happy and enjoying it,” he said. “I’m still hungry, I feel like I’ve got my mojo back.”
While Farah and Kipchoge fight it out at the sharp end, around 40,000 others will be pounding the streets of London in the 39th running of what organizers say is the world’s most popular race.
“We had 415,000 applications in five days,” said race director Hugh Brasher. “This weekend we will reach one billion pounds raised for charity by runners, with more than half of that coming in the last nine years.”
In the first race in 1981, co-founded by his father and former Olympic gold medalist Chris Brasher, five percent of finishers were female, while this year that figure is expected to be around 45 percent.
The race is also testing a number of innovations to help reduce its environmental impact, such as fewer feeding stations and an experiment where 700 runners will use a recyclable plastic belt to carry refillable bottles.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge