Cardiff witnessed one of the greatest World Half Marathon races of all time as Kenya’s road running king Geoffrey Kamworor put Mo Farah in his place to retain his world title.
Kamworor set out his stall weeks ago by claiming he was coming to Cardiff to break the world record and had the Welsh weather been as it was a day earlier, he would surely of gone close.
As it was the 23-year-old finished a mere two seconds slower than he had run in winning the title in Copenhagen two years earlier.
The fast finishing Farah picked up the bronze medal in another sub-60 minute time. Now the two great distance warriors, along with second placed Bedan Karoki, are set for another epic battle in Rio this summer, where Olympic gold will be on the line in the 10,000 metres.
Kamworor picked himself up from what was nearly the falsest of false starts to not only retain his IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon championship, but make it three world titles in a row – the 2014 world half, 2015 world cross country and now the 2016 world half again.
In between there was a silver medal for the 23-year-old behind Farah in the 10,000 metres at last year’s world championships and what happened in the Welsh capital merely added further interest and intrigue into what is likely to be one of the hottest races to gold in Rio later this year.
While Kamworor managed to pick himself up after slipping over at the start as the gun went, Farah managed to dust himself down in the closing stages after being left for dead by the teamwork of the Kenyans.
Kamworor and Karoki, got away after 10km as they hit the accelerator to leave their biggest rival trailing in their wake. The fact that Farah set a European record at 15km of 42.03, slashing 36 seconds off John Brown’s 22-year-old previous best, showed he was running at somewhere close to his best, but the top two were 22 seconds faster.
The rain lashed down in the final few miles, but that didn’t deter Kamworor, who used the rise off Roath park lake up to Cathays cemetery at 12 miles to drive the final nails into the coffins of his rivals.
It was a solo effort from there on in and he won the title in 59.10, two seconds slower than he had won in Copenhagen.
Farah also dipped under the hour mark, clocking 59.59, the same time as Ethiopia’s Abayneh Ayele, who had to settle for fourth place as he became the latest athlete to be out-kicked in the home straight by the Briton. Karoki took the silver in 59.36, his first defeat in five half marathons.
“I’m really happy. I fell down at the start and I was trying to get up and everyone was pushing me back down,” said Kamworor, who led Kenya to the team title for the 15th time in 22 events.
“I was trying to get up but there was a big group coming behind me, pushing me down, it a tough start.
“I was looking for a personal best. This win gives me more motivation for Rio, and I’m really looking forward to running the 10K.
“It was the world half marathon today, but now it’s done. From tomorrow it’s all about preparing for the 10,000m.”
The wet and windy conditions certainly made life difficult for everyone and Farah admitted it had been one of the toughest races of his life.
“After three or four miles, the Kenyan’s were up the front and Karoki and Kamworor kept pushing the pace on,” said the double Olympic 10,000m champion.
“They just went for it and 10km into it, the pace shot up, and I thought to myself ‘that’s quick’.
“The gap got bigger and bigger and I got more and more tired.
“Sub 60 is pretty impressive, and I think Geoffrey is capable of breaking the world record.
“If he can run this pace on these conditions, he is definitely capable of running a lot faster.
“I’ll wipe this out of my mind, what happens in Rio will definitely be different, this will give my massive motivation.
“Geoffrey is a great athlete, so is Karoki, it’s what the media has been waiting for, a challenge.
“I want to defend my title in Rio, just as Geoffrey wanted to defend his today. I’m very excited to be competing against these guys.”
Scotland’s Callum Hawkins finished 15th in 62.51 and the third British scorer was Welshman Dewi Griffiths in 27th with a personal best of 64.10, that enabled the team to finish a highly respectable fourth overall, 42 seconds behind the 2014 champions, Eritrea.
The women’s race was once again dominated by the Kenyan’s. They filled the first five places in Copenhagen two years ago and once again scooped all the medals.
All five Kenyans – Pascalia Kipkoech, Cynthia Limo, Mary Wacera, Peres Jepchirchir and Gladys Chesire – were part of a large lead group of 14 athletes to go through 5km in 16:31 before Jepchirchir went on to take the title in 67.31.
Limo was second, three seconds back, and Wacera took the bronze. The best placed Briton was Alyson Dixon in 27th in 72.57 and the British team finished 11th.