But it was harder than last year: Farah admitted so himself. The teeth had to be gritted and clamped with 100m to go as greyhounds from Kenya and Ethiopia sniffed out and scampered after their prey. His battle roar was also delayed until moments before the line, when his lungs demanded release and he finally accepted that victory was safe. Then came the familiar gestures: eyes kindled and hands open in astonished glee before his body flopped on the track, tension escaping like air from a popped balloon after a job well done.
“I never thought in my career I would achieve something like this,” said Farah, who won 5,000m gold in 13min 26.98sec, a step ahead of Gebrhiwet and Koech who took silver and bronze in the same time of 13:27.26sec. “This was very tough – it was all left to the last two laps and I had a lot of pressure. It was hard this year, harder than last year.”
Once again Farah’s rivals did not help themselves. If insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, it is time to ask the men in white coats to assess Farah’s opponents. Once again they let a championship middle-distance race turn into a prolonged sprint, then flailed and strained while Farah blasted into history.
Farah, for one, could not believe his luck. “My legs felt all right but they were a lot more heavy than the rest of the guys,” he said. “I thought the race would have been harder but it instead suited me. I also had a stitch from about eight laps to go and I was pushing my stomach in but then the pace slowed and I tried to forget about it and come through.”
So gentle were proceedings after 2,000m that Farah was content to lead and stay out of trouble. Only Koech tried to alter the status quo by forcing things after 400m and again at 3,000m but it did not last. There were pulses of activity and then steady periods of rest. Farah waited, watched and, when he reckoned the time was right, hit his opponents hard.
In the past Farah has gone from 200m out or 400m out, but this time he kicked with 650m remaining. The chasing pack quickly dissipated except for two 19-year-olds who stayed on his shoulder: Gebrhiwet, the Ethiopian with impressive victories in Doha and New York this season, and Koech, the Kenyan champion. Both have 5,000m personal bests several seconds faster than Farah. One day they will beat him. This, however, was not that day.
“Fair credit to Koech, who pushed on and just got pipped on the line,” said Farah. “But I would have thought someone else would have tried and worked as a team.” Koech, who briefly led by 15m on the second lap before lacking the courage of his convictions and drifting back to the pack, admitted he knew he could not beat Farah on the last lap. That is the hold he now has over his opponents.
“I like a high pace, not a slow pace, so I was trying to push it,” said Koech. “I know Farah is faster than me and I don’t catch Farah when the bell is being rung. I saw him in Monaco and I know what he can do over 1500m.”
Farah’s latest success brings Britain’s trove of gold medals at these championships to three, equalling their best for a world championships set in Stuttgart 20 years ago.
It will also inevitably whirr up the carousel surrounding Farah’s place in distance running’s pecking order. Some will demand that he now chases world records but metal has always been his preferred currency, not ink.
There is a steely realism to Farah’s approach: Bekele’s 5,000m and 10,000m records – 12:37.35 and 26:17.53 respectively – are exceptional. And while Farah has scaled more great peaks during these championships, this would be like trying to climb Everest and K2. Still, with no major titles to aim for until the world championships in Beijing in 2015 he hinted that he might alter his approach.
“I would like to run a decent time but for me the most important thing is winning medals,” he said. “It would be nice to get closer to Bekele’s records. I haven’t tried too hard. But now I have time to think about it and try to prepare for it.”
Steve Cram offered one of the more nuanced opinions here about Farah’s place in the pantheon. “Is he an all-time great? Yes, he is. If you win double gold at the world champs and the Olympics you are right up there,” he said. “But can you compare it to Daley Thompson winning two Olympic golds, a world title and breaking the world record? I don’t know.”
Cram also made another valid point – that “stacking up gold medals these days is a bit easier than it used to be because the world champs only started in 1983 and it used to be every four years.
“I would prefer to debate it at the end of his career,” he continued. “There are loads of great distance runners – Nurmi, Zatopek, Gebreselassie – that Mo can be mentioned with, but let’s wait until he’s finished and then we’ll go down the pub, have a beer and argue about it.” It was hard to disagree, except in one respect: after watching Farah’s latest heart-pounding triumph a drink of an altogether stiffer nature felt more appropriate.
article by Sean Ingle via theguardian.com