After the great miler Herb Elliott had thrashed a field of the world’s best, Ireland’s Olympic champion miler Ron Delany wondered whether there was any way to beat Elliott.
“There’s just one way – by tying his legs together,” Delany replied.
The world’s best track distance runners must be thinking along similar lines as they ponder how to beat Britain’s Mo Farah in the 10,000m. They had better not be thinking along the same lines as before, as strategies tried to date against the defending champion have been singularly unsuccessful.
Since losing to Ibrahim Jeilan in the 10,000m at the 2011 World Championships, after the Ethiopian had produced one of the greatest-ever last lap), Farah has won five global track distance titles in a row. He rebounded to win the 5000m in Daegu, and followed up with 5000m-10,000m doubles at both the London 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
If Farah triumphs in the 10,000m in Beijing, he will have strung together an unprecedented six consecutive global track distance titles (with a chance to make it seven in the 5000m). No runner has achieved that before – not Kenenisa Bekele (four, with Olympic and World Championship doubles in 2008-09), not Haile Gebrselassie (six at 10,000m, but no double wins), not Lasse Viren (four at Olympic level in pre-World Championships days), not Emil Zatopek, not Paavo Nurmi.
How does anyone stop him, given that the Delany-Elliott option is illegal, not to mention impractical? Farah leads the world on times, courtesy of his win over two likely Beijing challengers, Paul Tanui and Geoffrey Kamworor, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene at the end of May.
One thing is for certain: it would be foolhardy to leave it until the last lap – unless, that is, you can produce a final lap of Jeilan-quality. And conventional surging tactics are not as effective at 10,000m as 5000m because the ‘target’ has more distance to absorb the pace changes and run a more even tempo. Farah has coped with tough surging tactics before.
World cross-country champion Kamworor won the Kenyan Trials from Tanui and Bedan Karoki and there was talk immediately afterwards of team tactics against Farah. Any team running will have to be sustained and tough, in the manner in which Kamworor and Karoki attacked the world cross-country race in Guiyang earlier this year.
Ethiopia’s ‘trial’ in Hengelo was won by Muktar Edris. The 2012 world junior 5000m champion was third at the World Cross and will be backed up by Imane Merga and Mosinet Geremew.
Galen Rupp, fastest in the world last year and silver medallist behind Farah at the 2012 Olympics, won the US 10,000m title and can be expected to be in the race over the final stages.
Others who could feature in the race for a long way include Canada’s Cam Levins, fourth in Eugene some 17 seconds behind his training partner Farah, Turkey’s European under-23 champion Ali Kaya, Bahrain’s El Hassan Elabbassi and Germany’s Arne Gabius.
Len Johnson for the IAAF