Beginning a city half marathon at 7.30 am on a Sunday morning is not the most convenient time for participating runners, given the need for suitable transportation to the starting area, but officials responsible for the 2104 New York City race deemed it an appropriate time. They were rewarded by the appearance of Mo Farah and Geoffrey Mutai in the men’s race as both athletes used the race as preparation for the April London Marathon while the Boston equivalent was the intended target for others. Yet the organisers could not have predicted the dramatic outcome of this race.
Approximately 20,000 runners participated in the half marathon on a cold morning with temperatures barely above freezing point with leading athletes and joggers alike clad in woolly hats and gloves. For the first few miles, there was very little incident with the expected front runners in both the men’s and ladies events covering each other at the head of their respective races.
Just after five miles, Mo Farah stumbled to the road surface while tracking Mutai and lost ground on the other seven leaders. At that point Kenyan international athlete Mutai and his compatriot Stephen Sambu decided to take advantage of the situation and exploit Farah hesitancy by opening a gap at the front.
The move was decisive by Mutai who eventually won the race in 60 minutes and 50 seconds with Farah 18 seconds behind after catching Sambu in the closing stages. Farah later collapsed but recovered to inform the media that he was in fine spirits but that it had been a difficult race. Another Kenyan Sally Kipyego won the ladies event.
Falling in any race can be problematical but to do so in a road race can cause injuries which only become apparent once the initial shock and sudden rush of adrenalin dissipates. It is quite surprising that Farah became involved in a fall as he is a track runner accustomed to the normal jostling in sizeable fields in both 5,000 and 10,000 metre events. He has always been aware of the need to look after himself with careful positioning and concentration.
Although, Farah does have experience of road racing, perhaps the extended time spent at his training camp in Kenya has temporarily diluted his racing sharpness within a fellow group of athletes. Whatever the real reasons for his fall, it will still have been a sobering experience and it is a stark reminder that concentration levels are need at all times during a road race, especially when the pace may not be as quick as on the track.
With his full marathon debut awaited at London on April 13th, it is to be hoped that Farah has incurred no serious damage from this fall and that he can compete with Mutai amongst others on a level playing field during that Sunday morning.