For once, Mo Farah's electric sprint finish left him stretching for more. By the time he and Kenenisa Bekele had reached the mile-long stretch towards the finish line of yesterday's Bupa Great North Run, the Ethiopian runner had already made the decisive move which would secure him a thrilling victory.
Pre-event coverage had focused on the mouth-watering triumvirate of Farah, Bekele and Gebrselassie all competing at the South Shields course. The race lived up to its expectations as Bekele, trailing behind Farah and Gebrselassie for the opening stages, pushed hard to accelerate down 'Heartbreak Hill' at mile 12. Bekele took the drop seamlessly, and more critically, set up an insurmountable distance between him and the chasing pair.
Even though Farah would close the gap over the closing 300m, Bekele's tactical move paid off, with the Ethiopian finishing a second ahead of the Olympic gold medallist in 1:00:09. Gebrselassie, who won the event in 2010, held pace until mile 12 before Farah and Bekele broke free. With a time of 1:00:41, however, Gebrselassie set a new World Vet's record and is now the fastest 40 year old marathoner in history.
After the race, Farah paid homage to yesterday's winner: "As an athlete you are always going to be disappointed at losing and you don't want to lose a race but to lose against Kenenisa - he's a great athlete. We showed today, in terms of the field and race, it was a great race especially with Haile pushing on early. I guess this race was awesome in terms of having the three of us going against each other."
Even though there was no victory to add to his 'double-double', Farah's time yesterday represented a 13 seconds improvement on his time in New York two years ago. That, plus the exertions of competing in the World Championships less than a month ago, bodes well for his transition from track to road with the Virgin London Marathon looming in the not too distant future.
In the women's competition, Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo was a mere five seconds off a course record as she ran the third-fastest time in women's half-marathon history. Jeptoo, winner at this year's London Marathon, brushed away the challenge of pre-race favourites Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba to win in 1:05:45.
Even in the wet and windy conditions, almost 56,000 runners took to the streets of Tyneside for what was the 33rd staging of the Great North Run. World 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu and England cricketer Graeme Swann started the event. As ever, the Red Arrows were on hand to provide a stirring start to proceedings as they flew in formation over Tyne Bridge.