July 30, 2017
On August 4, 2012, Mo Farah won his first global 10,000-meter title at London Stadium to cap off Super Saturday, a British gold rush that saw Farah, long jumper Greg Rutherford and heptathlete Jessica Ennis all claim Olympic titles on home soil within the span of a few hours. Exactly five years later, this Friday, Farah will return to that same track in an attempt to win his final global 10,000-meter title in the first final on day one of the 2017 IAAF World Championships.
As has been the case in recent years, the Kenyans figure to be the 34-year-old Farah’s main obstacle. Geoffrey Kamworor finished second to Farah two years ago in Beijing, while Paul Tanui was the runner-up a year ago in Rio. Both men will be looking to move up on the podium in what will be their last chance to defeat Farah at a global championship on the track, if Farah sticks to his promise to retire from track competition after this year.
Race Time: 4:20 p.m. ET, Friday, August 4
2016 Olympic results
2017’s fastest performers (among men entered)
More Gold For Mo?
For the past five years, the question has always been the same: Can anyone beat Mo Farah? Every year, he provided the same answer. No. The result was that Farah put together the most impressive five-year championship run of any distance runner in history: double gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 at four straight global championships.
Now, as he heads into his final global championship on the track, Farah will try to add even more gold to his trophy case. He remains the favorite. He beat the year’s best 5,000 field at the Pre Classic; on the track, he’s lost one race above 1500 meters in the past four years.
But there is more reason to doubt him than ever before. Farah won his only 10k of the year in Ostrava on June 28, but despite trying for a fast time, he ran a sizeable positive split (13:25/13:47) and finished in 27:12, well off his 26:46 pb. Granted, the temperature was in the 80s and Farah had to lead most of the second half of the race, but it wasn’t what he was looking for.
But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what Farah said the week before Worlds:
“I’m not quite in the shape I’d like to be at this stage, but I’m moving well so I hope it’ll go well on the day.”
Remember, Farah is ancient by the standards of world-class 10,000-meter runners. When he won Olympic gold in 2012, he was already the oldest man to win a global 10,000 title in 32 years. And that was when he was 29; he’s 34 now. Farah’s longevity remains one of his most impressive traits, but there are signs of slippage. Granted, comparing times from year to year is never perfect, but Farah’s days of running sub-3:30 for 1500 are over.
Mo Farah’s season bests, 2015-17
|Year||1500 SB||5k SB||10k SB|
And if you compare Farah’s last two wins in global 10,000s, he was clearly better in 2015 than he was in 2016. In 2015, he ran 27:01 and closed in 54.2; last year, he ran 27:05 and closed in 55.37.
Still, 3:34/13:00/27:12 is a combination of times that any other athlete would struggle to match. Beating Farah on home soil — where he hasn’t lost on the track since 2012 — will be no easy task.
Ever since he broke onto the global scene in 2011, the talk has been about how to beat Mo Farah. Over the years, several theories have been floated, generally involving some form of team tactics. There is merit to these ideas, but team tactics only work if:
1) Every athlete is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team
2) Someone is close enough in fitness to actually challenge Farah
We’ve yet to see a global championship where both of those things were true.
But Farah has lost before. In fact, before his stunning improvement at age 28, he lost frequently and convincingly. But considering Farah has essentially had two different careers (the one until he joined Alberto Salazar in 2011 and the one since then), those old defeats don’t offer much to go off. Instead, let’s focus on the one global championship he lost under Salazar, the 10,000 at Worlds in 2011.
You could argue that Farah went too early in that race, as Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan was able to run him down in the final straight after being gapped. But Farah ran 27:14 and closed his final lap in 53.3. That’s almost always fast enough for gold; in fact, it’s the faster than Farah closed in any of his gold-medal-winning 10,000s. Farah didn’t lose because of a tactical mistake; he lost because Jeilan closed in 52.8. He lost because Jeilan was better.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t tactics involved in a 10,000, but in a 25-lap race, it really is that simple. The fittest guy usually wins. And in 2017, that might not be Farah.
Just like two years ago, Geoffrey Kamworor is the guy with the best chance to take Farah down. In 2015, Kamworor entered Worlds as the reigning World XC and World Half Marathon champ on the back of a commanding win at the Kenyan Trials. Two years later, after defending all of those titles, he’s in the exact same spot (he was only 11th at the Olympics last year after battling a lung infection that wasn’t properly diagnosed until last fall).
In fact, the 10,000 at the 2017 Kenyan Trials was eerily similar to the 10,000 at the 2015 Kenyan Trials. The times were slower, but the places and margins were nearly identical (remember, both races were run at 5,800 feet in Nairobi).
1. Geoffrey Kamworor, 27:11.89
2. Bedan Karoki, 27:15.33
3. Paul Tanui, 27:18.45
1. Geoffrey Kamworor, 27:35.9
2. Bedan Karoki, 27:40.3
3. Paul Tanui, 27:42.6
Kamworor has raced Farah already this year, and he lost, running 13:01.35 to Farah’s 13:00.70 at the Pre Classic. But Kamworor is better at the 10k than he is over 5k. If Farah has taken a step back from where he was last year, Kamworor has the pedigree to upset him.
Paul Tanui is the other Kenyan who could win this race. The diminutive Kenyan has medalled at the past three global championships, including a silver last year in Rio. Both Farah and Kamworor dusted him at Pre (Tanui was way back in 11th at 13:14.09) but like Kamworor, Tanui has always been better at 10k.
Karoki, who ran 59:10 to win the RAK Half in February, is a definite medal threat, but when all three Kenyans are at their best, Karoki is the clear #3. He’s never medalled in four career global 10,000 finals (Tanui is 3-0 against him in those races) and Kamworor beat him out at World XC in 2015 and at the World Half Champs in 2016. Just getting on the podium would be an achievement for Karoki.
Ethiopia went 3-4 in Rio last year, but their team is not as strong in 2017. Neither of those men, Tamirat Tola and Yigrem Demelash, will be running the 10,000 at Worlds. Tola’s third attempt at a marathon was a stunning success – a 2:04:11 win in Dubai – and he hasn’t raced on the track since; Demelash, who ran a fantastic 59:19 half at the RAK Half in February, was a DNF in Hengelo and not selected. Their other Olympian, Abadi Hadis, is running and was an impressive 3rd at World XC in March, but he only managed 15th in Rio last year. Jemal Yimer Mekonnen was 4th at World XC but has never competed at a global championship on the track, while almost nothing is known about the final member of Ethiopia’s squad, 19-year-old Andamlak Belihu: athletics databases All-Athletics and Tilastopaja list the 2017 Ethiopian Trials as his only career result.
The only guy capable of winning other than Farah and the Kenyans is Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei. Cheptegei, who was sixth in Rio last year (#3 returner), broke Kamworor at World XC before totally cratering late in the race and has run well on the circuit this year, setting PRs of 7:34/12:59 and finishing one spot behind Kamworor at Pre. More importantly for the Kenyans, Cheptegei’s got the guts necessary to take it to Farah on the big stage, and even if he doesn’t win, he could help set up Kamworor and Tanui by pushing the pace, which is a prerequisite for someone to dethrone Farah. Even if he’s lost a step, Farah has the best top-end speed in the field and the slower it goes in London, the better his odds of victory become. This race needs to go under 27:30 for someone else to have a chance.
The Americans (and friends)
No American has ever medalled in this event at Worlds; in fact, aside from Galen Rupp, no American has ever come within even 14 seconds of the podium. Don’t expect the U.S. drought to end in 2017. Hassan Mead, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir are all fine runners, but they’ve been overmatched at the international level during their careers. Check out their major global results:
2015 Worlds 10k: 15th
2016 Olympic 5k: 11th
2015 Worlds 10k: 16th
2016 Olympic 10k: 19th
2017 World XC: 21st
2016 Olympic 10k: 14th
2017 World XC: 20th
Korir has definitely been running better this year than he was in 2016 now that he hasn’t had to deal with basic training, but it’s unlikely that he’s made a big enough jump to contend in London. Mead and Korir were also in that Pre Classic 5k and finished way down the field in 16th and 19th respectively. To medal at Worlds in the 10,000, you need to be able to break 27:00. None of the Americans have even broken 27:30. A top-10 finish would be a good goal for each of them to shoot for.
We’ll also give a shoutout to Mo Ahmed and Patrick Tiernan here. Neither are Americans, but both are former NCAA stars who could run well. Ahmed finished dead last in the 10,000 in Rio, but he’s world-class in the 5,000 (4th at the Olympics) and was 9th at Worlds in the 10k back in 2013. Ahmed is a much better runner than he was four years ago, so if it’s slow, he could factor here. Tiernan has only continued to improve after shocking Edward Cheserek at NCAA XC last year and beat Ahmed in the 10,000 at Payton Jordan. Hanging with the top Africans will be tough, but Tiernan beat Ahmed in the 10k at Payton Jordan and was the top non-African-born finisher at World XC in 13th. Of course, they don’t give medals to the top non-African-born finisher, but if they did, Tiernan would be our pick.
LRC prediction: 1) Farah 2) Kamworor 3) Tanui
This is the most vulnerable Farah has been since 2011, but we’ve seen him come through too many times on the biggest stage to bet against him. That said, when the race favorite is saying he wishes he were fitter two weeks before the race, it’s not a good sign. When we wrote this article, Paddy Power had Kamworor at 7-1 and Tanui at 33-1. Both of those would be worth throwing some money on if you live in the UK.
Talk about the 10,000s on our fan forum: MB: Official pre-race men’s and women’s 10k discussion thread – Can Mo Farah and Tirunes Dibaba add to their greatness?
*MB: Mo Farah: “I’m not quite in the shape I’d like to be at this stage but I’m moving well so I hope it’ll go well”