LRC Analysis: How Did Muktar Edris Finally Beat Mo Farah in the 2017 World Championship 5,000 Final?

August 12, 2017

LONDON — Mo Farah‘s incredible 10-race winning streak at global championships came to an end on Saturday night in the final global championship race of his career as Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris defeated him to win the 5,000 at the 2017 World Championships in 13:32.79 to Farah’s 13:33.22. How to beat Farah in a championship final has been the question at every major championship since 2012, and until tonight, it was a question that had gone unanswered. But tonight Edris finally got it done, spoiling Farah’s going-away party on his home track.

So how did Edris do it?

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Particularly in a tactical race?

The answer is surprisingly simple: Edris ran great.

(For a full recap of the race, check out this article: LRC The upsets continue: Mo Farah is beaten in men’s 5,000 at Worlds, Muktar Edris dethrones the king)

In our 10,000 preview before these World Championships, we said people like to talk about tactics but normally in a distance race, the fittest/best guy wins. In the lone World Championship race that Farah had lost before tonight under the tutelage of Alberto Salazar, the 2011 Worlds 10,000, many said after the fact that Farah lost because of a tactical mistake. Some said he went too early. The stats reveal that he lost because Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan closed his final lap in 52.8 – not because of a tactical error. Farah closed in 53.3 in Daegu – which is faster than he closed in any winning 10,000 race.

Tonight, we’ve already seen Brits and even Farah himself (see below) start to second-guess or blame team tactics on his loss. As humans, we are always seeking for an explanation for things but the one of “He simply got beat by a great performance” is too simple for most to grasp on to.

Leader to leader the last lap was 52.62 but we think Edris was about 52.3 as he wasn’t in the lead that bell. The BBC reported that none of Farah’s WC wins have ever featured a close that fast to win. We’ll take their word for it.

We do know that of Farah’s global 5000 wins, the closest comparison in terms of winning time came at the 2013 Worlds in Moscow which was a 13:26.98 race (Edris ran 13:32.79 to win tonight).

Check out the last four laps of Farah and Edris in those two races. They are remarkably similar, but Edris had a much better last lap.

Edris in 2017 Farah in 2013
Final 1600 3:57.6 3:57.7
4th to last lap 63.7 63.18
3rd to last lap 62.4 63.82
2nd to last lap 58.1 57.31
last lap 52.4 53.44

So let’s give props to Edris. He did what few expected anyone to do — beat Mo Farah. And he did it in a tactical race, which is exactly the type of race everyone said Farah would definitely win. In reality, setting a fast pace might not have worked as Farah has a better 5000 pb than everyone in this field.

People can speculate that Farah has slowed down (he did close a 13:03 race last year in Rio in 52.7), but the Edris today appears to be better than the Farah of 2013. It would have taken a masterful performance from Farah to win and maybe because he’s 34 or maybe because he was tired from the grueling 10k, he couldn’t quite do it.


Mo Farah believes Ethiopian team tactics played a role in his defeat, but the jury is out on that one

Farah hasn’t lost many races since joining Salazar, especially over 5,000 meters. Entering this meet, he had won 22 of his last 23 5,000-meter races and even the race he lost (2013 Pre Classic) didn’t offer many keys for beating him as he had been sick leading into the meet and did not have his usual closing speed over the final lap.

But one race that is worth revisiting is the 3,000 in Doha in 2015 as it played out in a similar fashion to today’s final. In that race, Farah had the lead with 600 when Kejelcha made a move and attempted to pass Farah. Farah fended Kejelcha off, but the surge took something out of him and when Kejelcha moved again at the bell, Farah did not respond and allowed Kejelcha to move by.

Kejelcha could not sustain the move and faded on the final lap, but he had done enough to wound Farah and his countryman Hagos Gebrhiwet was able to swoop in, taking the lead with 75 meters ago and powering to the win as Farah was able to battle back for second.

Tonight’s race played out in similar fashion as Kejelcha took the lead with Edris playing the role of Gebrhiwet. This strategy is one that has been bandied about for a few years (Nick Willis suggested it in June). While it’s not clear if Kejelcha made his move as part of a team effort or because he believed that was the best way for him to win (we think Kejelcha was just running for his own win), it is clear is that Farah believed the Ethiopians worked together to beat him.

“It was three against one and they had to sacrifice one of them, they sacrificed Kejelcha not to get a medal and Edris to sit on the back and to do as less work as possible and to come beat me on their last lap and that was their plan,” Farah said. “As an athlete, what you want to do when you get in them races, you want to cover every move. I spend, looking back, I spent quite a lot of energy just trying to cover moves and trying to make sure I’m in the right place and then the last lap [I’m] boxed in a little bit.”

The reason we don’t think Kejelcha was being used as a sacrificial lamb is he’s the reigning World Indoor 3k champ, he’s run 12:55 on the year and tonight he came up just .29 of a second from beating Farah. He was going for it but slightly misjudged what he had left (as he ran a positive split on the last 200 compared to his penultimate 200).

Farh was convinced there was a plan to sacrifice Kejelcha because he saw Kejelcha and Edris talking together on the warmup track. “In the warmup they were talking to each other and I was like ‘they’ve got something planned,’ but I didn’t know that was the plan,” Farah said.

Farah said he couldn’t get the lead at the bell because Kejelcha was going too hard. “I tried to take the lead, but I couldn’t get to the lead. I was going hard enough. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do more than I need to do,’” Farah said.

Edris said, through a translator, that he and Kejelcha did have a plan to work as a team, and originally that was to take the silver and bronze medal behind Farah. They thought Farah might be too tough to beat in his final race. However, he says they then changed their plan not to sacrifice one for the other but rather to work together. Through a translator Edris said, “If we arrive at the finish together he will struggle to take the gold.” It’s hard to know exactly what to think, though. Edris’ answers weren’t particularly clear as they came through a translator.

Update: Another reason to think there wasn’t some elaborate team plan to sacrifice Kejelcha for Edris was that Edris was ahead of Mo Farah the entire last lap. Kejelcha went hard, but Edris was the guy who went second hardest, staying just behind Kejelcha until passing him.

No matter what the plan was, even if you can force Farah to kick earlier than he’d like, there’s still the matter of outrunning him over the final 100 meters — something that no one has done at a major championship since another Ethiopian, Ibrahim Jeilan, beat him in Daegu in 2011. We can talk about “team tactics” all we want but the key thing to remember is Edris closed his final lap in 52.3 seconds. That’s exceptional closing speed, and if Edris had taken the lead at the bell, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have won by more by running on the rail the entire way?

Mo Farah post-race interview

Men’s 5,000 meters medallists’ press conference

More:  Full recap of the race: LRC The upsets continue: Mo Farah is beaten in men’s 5,000 at Worlds, Muktar Edris dethrones the king.

Lap Split
1 62.25
2 70.58
3 71.52
4 70.90
5 72.80
6 64.82
7 66.26
8 64.32
9 62.85
10 63.34
11 62.57
12 54.24
Final lap
 52.62 (26.28, 26.34) 52.3 for Edris

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