Mo Farah hopes to battle with the best at London Marathon despite 2014 pain

• Distance runner struggled during first attempt at 26.2 miles
• ‘This is the biggest race and there is only one way to run it’

Mo Farah believes he can compete with the very best during Sunday’s London Marathon despite failing to deliver during his first attempt at 26.2 miles in 2014.

The 35-year-old dramatically hit the wall in London four years ago, gritting his teeth as early as the 17-mile marker before finishing eighth in a modest 2hr 8min 21sec.

This time, however, Farah intends to stay with a stellar field, even if they start at world record pace, and says he is targeting Steve Jones’s 33-year-old British record of 2:07:13, as well as Sondre Nordstad Moen’s European best of 2:05:48.

“This is the biggest race,” said Farah. “And there is only one way to run it – mixing with the guys and seeing what I can do. But it’s an amazing field. It’s got Eliud Kipchoge, who has run two hours, Kenenisa Bekele, who has run 2:03 and Daniel Wanjuri, who won last year.”

Farah, who has spent the past three months in Ethiopia, says he feels revitalised and relaxed under his new coach, Gary Lough, and, surprisingly, believes he has the ability to run 2:03 – not far off the world record of 2:02:57 – once he has adapted to the uniquely punishing demands of the marathon.

“I think I am capable of running 2:04 or 2:03 in the right race with the right pace,” he added. “But Sunday’s race is going to be different. There are many, many guys who are there to fight, so it’s going to be a difficult race.”

When asked whether he would be prepared to go at world record pace on Sunday, despite the high temperatures forecast, he nodded. “If that is what the guys are doing, why not?”

Certainly Farah appeared more relaxed than last year where barely a press conference went by without him having to fend off questions about his former coach Alberto Salazar, who is still under investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Farah still faced them – insisting that he had not spoken directly to Salazar about running London or to the Nike Oregon Project coach David McHenry since last October – but no longer did he appear burdened by the association or the pressure of having to deliver gold medals over 5,000m and 10,000m.

“On the track people expect you to win but now there are a lot of guys who can run a lot faster than me,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. I have found a new challenge and this is something I always wanted to do.”

Farah explained that much of his confidence came from working with Lough, who had focused on his weaknesses and freshened up his training by running intervals with shorter rest periods. “There are things he has given me that I have not done before, so I am getting better at getting stronger,” said Farah. “Gary is a genius and I believe in him.”

Organisers say they are monitoring the weather forecast – temperatures are projected to be 21C on Sunday – with the race director, Hugh Brasher, warning amateur runners they need to “listen to their body” and “change their plan” because of the heat.

It is understood that extra water will be provided and over 1,000 medical staff will be on hand. But Farah insists he is not worried about running in the heat, despite seeing his fellow British athlete Callum Hawkins collapse during the final stages of the Commonwealth Games marathon.

“I was obviously devastated seeing that,” said Farah. “Callum is a great fighter – he will go as hard as he can, and try and break the guys. But Sunday will be completely different. Hugh has told us there will be enough staff and doctors on hand.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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