Mo Farah has been warned that next year’s London Marathon will be harder to win than an Olympic gold medal after race organisers revealed that Eliud Kipchoge will be the first in a long list of big names to face the Briton.
Some had expected Farah would be given an easy ride in his first attempt over 26.2 miles since 2014, especially given his six-figure appearance fee and the thirst for a first British winner in the race since Paula Radcliffe in 2005.
But the elite race co-ordinator, Dave Bedford, said he would never arrange the race to help Farah and that bringing to London the Olympic champion, whom he called “the greatest marathon runner in the history of our sport”, proved it.
“No one can ever accuse me of trying to fix a race to make it easier for anyone,” said Bedford. “Athletes do truly say that winning the London Marathon is harder than winning the Olympic Games and when you see the further contestants we have over the coming weeks you will agree with that.
“It will really underline the fact that while I am charge of the elite field at the London Marathon no one will ever get an easy time of it and that doesn’t matter whether they are British or the Olympic champion.”
The 33-year-old Kipchoge said he will have one eye on Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2hr 2min 57sec in April having missed out by eight seconds when winning his second London Marathon title in 2016.
“London is a good course, and the world record can be broken here,” he said. “Remember I ran the third-fastest time in history last year and I just missed out on the record by a few seconds. London is truly the place to break the world record.
“I want to it be a really beautiful race, but I will be also happy just to win.”
Kipchoge also had a few words of advice for Farah, who has switched to running marathons after ending his track career this summer with a gold and silver medal at the world championships in London.
“Mo is a very successful person,” Kipchoge said. “He is a legend and he is going to be a big challenge for me. He is well exposed to all sorts of pressure in this world, so my only advice is to prepare well and plan well. If you plan and prepare very well then winning can come on his own way.”
Kipchoge, who was the 5,000m world champion at 18 and also won Olympic medals on the track before moving up to the marathon, told Farah that he also had to be prepared to suffer. “When I was on the track the training was very little but intensive. When I really made my transition to marathon I got a big surprise for you have go for a long run and then you have to go for huge track workouts.”
In May, Kipchoge ran an astonishing 2:00.25 for the marathon as part of the Nike Sub2 project, which did not count as an official world record as it featured pacemakers that dipped in and out of the race. He said there were no plans to try again in an attempt to become the first person to go under two hours. “But I hope in the future it will be really possible,” he said.