(20-Apr) -- Four-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah said today that Sunday's TCS London Marathon will be his last race at the distance. Farah, who turned 40 last month and had to pull out of London when the race was held off-cycle last October due to the pandemic, hasn't completed a marathon in nearly four years.
VIDEO STILL: Mo Farah speaking the the media at today's TCS London Marathon press conference
"Sunday is probably going to be my last marathon," Farah somberly told reporters today at a press conference in London. "Just being realistic." He continued: "It won't be my last race, but in terms of marathon the London Marathon will be my last."
Farah spoke about how difficult it has been for him to maintain his overall health and fitness over the last several years and how he has had to modify his training to accommodate his aging body. He had high hopes for last October's London race, but ended up scratching out with a hip injury only a week and a half before the race. In his last start at London where he was entered as a bonafide competitor in 2019 --he acted as a pacemaker in 2020-- Farah finished fifth overall in 2:05:39, the fastest time out of his three London finishes. He's relatively optimistic about Sunday, he said.
"Last year I was definitely gutted," said Farah about missing last October's race. "I was in decent shape." He added: "This year I'm back and I'm healthy. That's a key thing for me. I've been in Ethiopia and training's gone well."
Farah has had a long relationship with the TCS London Marathon stretching back to when he was just a teenager and ran the event's Mini Marathon for young athletes. Farah first appeared on London's starting line in Blackheath in 2013, but only as a pacemaker where he dropped out just past the 20-K point on Tower Bridge. Previous race director Dave Bedford had allowed Farah to pace and essentially do course reconnaissance for his debut the following year.
"It was incredible," Farah told the BBC just after dropping out in 2013. "The support, people coming out for me." He said he had a lot to learn about the event. "The bigger challenge is picking up the drinks and getting the right drinks," Farah admitted. "I really made a mess of it. It's one of the biggest lessons of my life, really."
In 2014 Farah made his official marathon debut in London and his performance got mixed reviews. While his eighth place finish in 2:08:21 certainly wasn't terrible, as the reigning Olympic 10,000m champion both fans and the media expected more. The headline in one British newspaper read "Mo Marathon Flop" after Farah ended up running much of the race alone. He didn't go with the first group of pacemakers and contenders, and the second half became a private struggle on public streets. He lost contact with his pacemaker, Cybrian Kotut of Kenya, several times and ran much of the race alone.
PHOTO: Mo Farah finishing the 2018 London Marathon where he finished third in 2:06:21 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"I was alone a lot of the way," he told the BBC. He continued: "I had a bad day in the office; it is what it is. I've got to move on and get ready for my next race."
Farah enjoyed his best performance at London in 2018 when, despite picking up a bottle of another competitor because it looked similar to his, he finished third in a national record 2:06:21. He was beaten only by Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopia's Shura Kitata, two of the world's best marathoners, with whom he was able to stay close to until the final 10 kilometers of the race.
"I was tired from then," said Farah. "I managed to keep going, to keep fighting."
Farah's best marathon came in Chicago in 2018 when he won the race in 2:05:11, a European record at the time. He would never run faster.
"It's definitely been quite emotional the last couple of years," Farah said today. "As an athlete you want to go out and do the best you can." He added: "For me that's been frustrating. Last two years have been tough."
PHOTO: Mo Farah with former London Marathon race director Dave Bedford before pacing the 2013 race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
While making no predictions for Sunday, Farah said that he drew confidence from last Sunday's performance by his training partner, Bashir Abdi of Belgium, who won the Rotterdam Marathon in a world-leading 2:03:47. In their workouts in Ethiopia Farah said that he had been "neck and neck" with Abdi. Both men are coached by Gary Lough, Paula Radcliffe's husband.
"That gives me a big confidence," Farah said, adding, "seeing that definitely gives me a massive boost."
For the other top competitors in Sunday's race, Farah had always been an athlete who had inspired them.