Sir Mo Farah made it back-to-back victories at The Vitality Big Half as he outkicked Bashir Abdi (Belgium) and Daniel Wanjiru (Kenya) to take the win in a thrilling sprint finish as he prepares for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon.
In windy conditions, Farah clocked a time of 61 minutes and 14 seconds, which proved too much for training partner Abdi and former Virgin Money London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru.
It was an all-British battle in the elite women’s race with last year’s champion Charlotte Purdue winning ahead of Aldershot & Farnham District AC clubmate Steph Twell in a time of 70:38. Charlotte Arter finished third.
David Weir warmed up for his 20th London Marathon with victory in the elite men’s wheelchair race and Margriet van den Broek was the winner in the women’s wheelchair contest.
Sir Mo Farah lived up to his billing of pre-race favourite but had to work hard for his win.
Farah, Wanjiru and Abdi broke away early in the race, quickly dropping former double London Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang and Welshman Dewi Griffiths from the lead group.
Wanjiru and Abdi looked to have shaken off Farah in the early stages as he suffered briefly from stomach cramp, but Sir Mo soon rejoined the front of the race.
Then Farah, the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion, timed his sprint to perfection as the leading three men approached the Finish Line at Cutty Sark.
It was a trademark finish from Sir Mo, who signalled to Abdi and Wanjiru to stay with him as he upped the tempo heading to the Finish Line and crossed the line in a time of 61:14.
Abdi was second in 61:16 and Wanjiru third in 61:17.
Sir Mo said: “The conditions weren’t great today so I’m pleased to win, although it would have been nice to run a bit faster and really test myself. I’m happy with the win and with how my preparations are going ahead of the London Marathon in April.
“I got a bit of stomach cramp at one point but it cleared up. It’s always great to race in London. I love racing on the streets of London; the crowds are amazing. I’m going to spend the next few days with my family then I head back to Ethiopia to continue training.
“The London Marathon is still quite a long way away but I’m happy with my progress and it was nice to be able to race today.”
It was a magnificent performance from Charlotte Purdue, who closed a significant gap with Steph Twell in the closing stages to successfully defend her Vitality Big Half title.
Twell was out on her own for much of the race, but Purdue gave chase across Tower Bridge and caught her clubmate.
Purdue turned the screw in the final miles as Twell tried and failed to respond to the raised pace.
Purdue’s time of 70:38 was a long way short of her impressive personal best of 69:46 but was enough to take the win. Twell was second in 71:33 and Charlotte Arter third in 71:44.
“It’s brilliant to get the win,” Purdue said. “The weather was really windy so I knew it wasn’t going to be a really quick day.
“Some of the athletes went off really quick, but I knew they’d come back to me because the conditions didn’t indicate really fast times – so I followed my own race plan, and it paid off.
“It’s great to retain my title. I won here last year, and to win again is really good.”
David Weir was a dominant victor in the elite men’s wheelchair race proving he is ready to challenge at his 20th London Marathon next April.
Weir was a clear winner in 51:12 with Simon Lawson the next man home in 54:37. Weir’s training partner John Boy Smith was third in 55:00.
In the elite women’s wheelchair race, Margriet van den Broek won in a time of 63:41. Mel Nicholls was second (63:59) and Eden Rainbow-Cooper third (67:52).
“I’m really pleased to win here today,” Weir said. “The race was a great test of my fitness as I prepare for the London Marathon.
“The windy conditions made the race challenging today – because our chairs are six feet long, they act like a bit of a sail, but I don’t really mind windy conditions. I train in all weathers – and it’s been windy all week so it wasn’t that bad, to be honest.
“The support out on the course was good; I always enjoy racing in London.
“I was a bit anxious in January because I had a car crash and got ill, spending a week in hospital, so I was nervous about my training but it’s been going well recently. I’m off to Spain next week for 10 days of warm-weather training ahead of the Boston Marathon and then the London Marathon.”
The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on Sunday 28 April.
Picture – ©The Vitality Big Half