Mo Farah shadowboxed on the start line in tribute to his hero Muhammad Ali – and then produced a knockout performance to break another British record.
This time it was Dave Moorcroft’s 3,000 metres best, which has been gathering dust since 1982. But Farah had to dig deep, pushing on when he thought it was beyond him and producing a driving last lap of 59 seconds when his arms were pumping as hard as in an Olympic or world final. It was enough – just. Farah’s time was 7min 32:62sec – 0.17sec inside Moorcroft’s old best.
“I have been trying for about seven years for that record,” a smiling Farah said afterwards. “It has stood there for a while and has been hard to beat. But I knew I was in good shape and, when I spoke to the race organiser, Spencer Barden, I told him the British record was possible.
“I went from the gun, straightaway, but I really had to work the last two laps. It was a little bit breezy the last 200m and I had to dig in deep. I could hear the commentator saying: ‘Thirty. All he needs is 30 seconds.’ I thought: I can do it, I can do it.”
Afterwards Farah, who now holds almost every major British track record from 1500m to 10,000m, as well as the half-marathon, dedicated his victory to Ali. “I wish I had seen him,” he said.
“One time he had the charity and I wanted to go, but I had a race coming up. But he will still be my hero. And, if I had met him as a person, it would be really hard to let that go.”
This time last year Farah pulled out on the morning of the Diamond League meeting here, saying he felt emotionally and physically drained in the wake of doping allegations made against his coach, Alberto Salazar. Some thought he had left his supporters, many of whom had paid more than £50 to attend, down. But there was no sense of resentment from the 9,000 crowd who gave him the loudest cheer of the day when he was introduced – and then propelled him to another record.
“I get a massive boost from the crowd when I come to Birmingham. I have great memories here. They cheer you on for that last bit. But I didn’t even know I had broken the record until I was going around. I thought I had just missed it.”
Of the middle-distance records, only Steve Cram’s mile record and Seb Coe’s 800m are up for grabs. After watching Farah Coe joked that he was beginning to worry. “He is making me nervous that he is now going to focus on the 800m,” Coe said. “And I wouldn’t rule it out. Mo doesn’t normally chase times but he really ground it out. He was really hurting.”
Farah will now head to the Pyrenees for a training camp before competing in Monaco and at the Anniversary Games and believes his form has put him in a good place ahead of the defence of his 5,000m and 10,000m Olympics in Rio in August. “I am in a happy place,” he said.
“Training has been going pretty well, I am in a good place, I have to make sure I don’t overcook it, be sensible, believe in myself. What I am trying to do is something that has never been done before. It won’t be easy. People say: ‘Oh, Mo won it four years ago. He will get it again.’ It doesn’t work like that. I have to be sensible, be smart, keep enjoying it.”
There was less good news for another star of London 2012 Greg Rutherford, who sustained whiplash as his unbeaten record of nine victories in a row since last July came to an end.
Rutherford, 29, had injured his neck competing in Rome on Thursday, but had hoped he would be able to shake it off. But he hurt it again in his first jump of 8.17m, and could only finish fifth overall behind Marquise Goodwin, who jumped 8.42m.
“My neck got a little bit jacked up in Rome and we thought it would be fine and we did loads of therapy on it, but I made it worse on my first jump and on the last one I got whiplash pretty bad,” Rutherford said.
“I wanted to go out there and win and funny enough when I saw Marquise hit his big jump it filled me with a load of excitement that I was going to do it myself. However, I am currently unable to move my neck – the doctor thinks it is a bad whiplash but it won’t affect my Olympic bid.”
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