If it's fair to say Mo Farah’s transition from track to road racing has been something of a rocky journey, however victory at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, where he set a European record, could well be a defining moment in his long distance career.
Conditions were tough for the 40,000 runners who made their way to Grant Park for what was the 41st staging of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Much of the pre-race attention centred on Farah and his reunion with his former training partner and defending champion, Galen Rupp.
What materialised, however, was a performance from Farah at which he looked his most comfortable, confident and composed over 26.2 miles. In contrast to London when he passed through the half way point in around 61 minutes, Farah was sitting at the back of a leading pack that hit 13.1 miles in a far more conservative and restrained 63.
The group of 13 men gradually dropped as the miles were clocked, with Rupp a notable absentee from the leading pack at around 16 miles, leaving a quartet of Farah, Mosinet Geremew, Suguru Osako and Kenneth Kipkemoi to battle it out.
Over the last 5k, Farah looked relaxed and, while Geremew managed to keep on his shoulder, the British runner made a decisive and clinical push over the final km. His trademark kick was both a comforting sight and sign that he could replicate his 5,000 and 10,000m strategy to road running.
As he approached the finish line for what we would be a 2:05:11 victory, Farah, in an image that was tinged with both relief and elation, threw a series of right punches into the air. Geremew claimed second in 2:05:24, with Osako bagging third (plus a Japanese national record and around £670,000 to boot) on 2:05:50.
Reflecting on the day, Farah said: "The conditions weren't great and everyone was thinking about conditions rather than time, but towards the end we picked it up. I felt good towards the end of the race. At the beginning I felt a bit sluggish but overall I'm very happy with it."
In what was a depleted women’s field following the withdrawals of Jordan Hasay and Amy Cragg, Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei was the stand-out performer in the women’s competition. Kosgei, second at last year’s event, claimed victory in 2:18:35, far out of sight from her closest competitors Roza Dereje (2:21:18) and Shure Demise (2:22:15).
It remains to be seen how successful a marathon career Mo Farah can achieve but his performance on Sunday will surely have silenced those who doubted that at the age of 35 he was leaving it too late to make the transition work for him. Whether he will be able to reach the heights of Kipchoge – whose marathon PB is more three and a half minutes faster than Farah’s – is doubtful.
Regardless, his performance at the Great North Run and Chicago suggests an increasing ease on the road. Now Farah’s pursuit of a fifth marathon gold at Tokyo 2020 looks a lively prospect.