It may have been the final indoor race of his illustrious career, but Mo Farah proved age is having no adverse affect on his speed by smashing the European indoor 5,000 metres record to avenge his dismal season opener five weeks ago.
A severely undercooked Farah was forced to accept the humiliation of finishing seventh at the Edinburgh Cross-Country at the start of last month, when he admitted he had not trained hard enough after bathing in the glory of his double Olympic success in Rio.
Renewed by a testing stint at altitude in Ethiopia, Farah, 33, looked a different athlete at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix.
Accustomed to an easy ride at invitational meetings in Britain, Farah was given a stiffer test than many had envisaged when he was forced to fight off a fierce challenge from Bahrain’s Albert Rop. Paced with a view to challenging the British indoor 5,000m record, Farah had dropped almost all of his rivals, only for Rop to loom up alongside the home favourite at the bell for the final lap.
Willed on by the vociferous crowd, Farah showed the benefit of his recent time in Africa, displaying his trademark sprint finish to hold off Rop and triumph in 13 min 9.16 sec – two seconds faster than Frenchman Tahri Bouabdeilah’s European record.
“I’m happy. It’s a lot better than it was in Edinburgh,” said Farah. “I needed to get out in the mountains, put in the miles and train harder, which is what I did over the last four weeks.
“I tried my best in Edinburgh, but it wasn’t good enough. I went back home after Rio to spend time with the family, but sometimes you can’t do that if you want to perform at your best. I needed to go away, leave my family behind and get back to real training. I did that for the last four weeks and it is paying off. Hard work pays off.”
After a track career in which he has amassed four Olympic and five world titles, Farah has already confirmed his plans to turn his attention to marathon running following this summer’s World Championships in London.
Now at the start of his farewell track season, Farah launched his running spikes into the crowd during his lap of honour before admitting to feeling the emotion of the occasion.
“I can’t quite believe it is my last race, but I have had a great indoor career,” he said. “It’s something that must come to an end. It’s weird thinking about it and saying goodbye because I have had great support from everyone and in particular this [Birmingham] track where I have broken so many records. It has been amazing over the years. I got emotional at the end saying goodbye.”