Mo Farah finishes eighth in London Marathon as Wilson Kipsang wins

• Debutant at distance fails in attempt to break British record
• 'I'm not going to finish it like this. I will be back'
• Kenya's Edna Kiplagat victorious in women's race

A few hours after the London Marathon, when the last ounce of adrenaline had evaporated and a second wave of tiredness had hit him like reverb, Mo Farah insisted he would tackle 26.2 miles again despite what he called "a bad day in the office".

To finish eighth against such an impressive field in his first full marathon was no disgrace. It was his time of 2hr 08m 21sec, outside Steve Jones' musty British record by more than a minute, that really clawed at him. That he pipped Charlie Spedding's English mark was not really a silver lining; more a consolation prize he did not want.

Farah was also almost four minutes behind the winner, Wilson Kipsang, who eased home in a course record time of 2:04:29. Yet Britain's greatest middle-distance runner promises he is undeterred. He will tackle the marathon again. "It's the challenge," he said. "I want to be able to know I can run a great marathon as well as achieve medals on the track."

It is not in Farah's nature to hoist the white flag but the athletics calendar may dictate otherwise. Will he really risk further track medals at the 2015 world championships in Beijing, or the 2016 Olympics in Rio, by concentrating on marathon distance not track speed? Remember, the 2017 world championships are in London so it is conceivable that Farah's next marathon could be in 2018, when he will be 35.

"I will do another one, don't know where or when," he said. "I don't want to finish on a low. It could be in six months' time or in a few years' time."

Don't know where, don't know when? Those words, and his Blitz-like resilience, carried hints of Vera Lynn. The union jacks and patriotic bunting on the course did too. But it never looked like being VM Day from the moment the leaders went into the distance in the first kilometre. Victory for Mo, at the marathon at least, will have to wait for another sunny day.

Farah wants to take a break before determining his schedule for the rest of 2014. After the downer of Sunday's defeat, he deserves some down time.

"I haven't got any plans at all," he said. "I need to forget about running to try and enjoy some time with my family. I decided to run in the Glasgow Diamond League [in July] to be able to test myself; to see if I've lost any track speed. Then we'll make a decision in terms of the Europeans or Commonwealths. That's the next step, to see where I am."

There were some positives in performance, although you had to poke around for them. Farah beat the Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich. He was within three seconds of Geoffrey and Emmanuel Mutai, who have both run under 2hr 04min. And he toughed it out, for nearly 10 miles, when he had no one else for company.

"I was on my own a lot of the way," he said. "I don't think I could have done anything different but in my body I definitely felt it from 16 miles. My legs were getting heavier and heavier and heavier."

At the start he had smiled at the crowd and kissed the Great Britain badge on his vest, but at no point after that did his cadence or features appear comfortable. Long before the end there was an attritional grimace not a smile. Every one of Farah's 42,195 steps appeared hard.

We knew beforehand that Farah would not be going with the six runners in the elite group, all of whom had run 2hr 05min and were going for a world record. The plan was for him to go through halfway in 62min 15sec, about 30 seconds behind the leaders.

During the first four miles, the elite group, lead by Haile Gebrselassie were inside projected world record pace. That was no great surprise: the second, third and fourth miles in London are downhill.

What no one predicted was how quickly Farah would drop back. After five kilometres he was already 27 seconds behind the leading pack, and after 10km the gap was 45 seconds. The hundreds of thousands who had lined the route hollered him on but he was already chasing a British record not a victory.

Farah insisted that he had made the right decision to go with the lower group of pacemakers, because he knew he could not handle the world record pace. Still no champion likes chasing the minor places from their very first step.

Halfway was reached in 63min 07sec, 38 seconds down and in 12th place. But, crucially, Farah was running alone, detached from his pacemakers and in no man's land between the leading group and those behind him. It did not help that a dropped feeding bottle, just after Tower Bridge, deprived him of vital energy.

Only the crowd's chirps of "come on, Mo" pushed him on. "Without the crowd I don't think I would have even finished," he said, but he never countenanced quitting. "It was a great experience to race in London. I know what the marathon's about now and hopefully I will come back stronger."

The contrast between Farah and Kipsang was obvious. Marathon runners talk about experiencing spells in a race where it feels ridiculously, laughably easy. When the asphalt is like a trampoline and the miles tick by in a beat. Kipsang was in that zone.

The Kenyan stayed with the pacemakers until, with six miles remaining, he pushed on. Only his compatriot, Stanley Biwott, who was leading this race last year before running out of puff near the finish, stayed with him. Kipsang looked easy as a Sunday morning, and when he accelerated again with a mile remaining he was alone to savour his victory.

Biwott was second in a personal best of 2:04:53, with the defending champion Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia third in 2:06:29. Kebede revealed that he had typhoid a month ago and had come off his medication early to race.

Kipsang explained that his victory was not quite as easy as it appeared. "When I am running, even when I am in pain, I try to show the physical appearance of happiness," he said, smiling. "You get this energy, it helps so much."

Farah must now lick his wounds. He deserves enormous credit for stepping up in distance; for climbing dangerous crevices when others would have been satisfied with safe paths.

Many athletes would revert to the tried and trusted but Farah and his coach Alberto Salazar are stubborn. They will want to prove people wrong. They may yet do so in future but history will record that on this chilly London spring day, Farah reached for the stratosphere and landed with a bump.


Sean Ingle at the Mall

The GuardianTramp

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