Sir Mo Farah, even at 60 per cent capacity, remains a fully-loaded superstar but with the quality of field surrounding the four-time Olympic champion in Saturday’s Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International, seventh place was probably the maximum return available from his final cross-country outing as a consequence of a post-Christmas bug.
Instead it was left to Leonard Korir, the Kenyan-born American, and Callum Hawkins to engage the crowds in Holyrood Park with a cat-and-mouse duel at the head of the field in the concluding 8km race, with the Scot losing out in their dash for the line.
Farah, visibly toiling, was well adrift but flew back to America yesterday admitting such struggles will inject extra fuel as he bids to sign off from his track career on a golden high at this summer’s world championships in London.
“It definitely fires me up. It gives me a little wake-up call,” the 33-year-old said. “It shows me, no matter what, if you are Olympic champion, world champion, if you haven’t done the work, you will get beaten. It’s as easy as that and the last couple of weeks haven’t gone as well as I wanted.”
He could have opted out of the race completely. Creditably, he persisted but saw Hawkins become the first Briton in seven years to leave him in his wake. However Farah will not want for motivation, just luck, from the forthcoming campaign.
“It’s not harder, but at the same time it hasn’t gone as smoothly as I wanted,” he reflected.
“I’m still hungry and I still trained for it but it hasn’t gone as well as I wanted.
“You have to get away from yourself. I’ve got four kids. You have to ask yourself what works the best for you.
“The thing that works for me is being in training camp, isolating myself, getting back to basics. At the same time, what time of year is it? It’s January. It’s early on so you have still got quite a lot of time.”
Laura Muir, who departs for another training stint in South Africa tomorrow, once again shone in leading Great Britain and Northern Ireland to victory in the Stewart Cup relay, even if the points table gave the USA the overall Great Edinburgh title ahead of Team Europe.
Meanwhile Hawkins’ ascent continues, to the surprise of some, even if his ninth-place finish in the Olympic marathon in Rio and the bronze he claimed at last month’s Euro Cross should have sent smoke signals over his challenge here.
“When you have races at this top level, there’s no point in holding back,” the 24-year-old acknowledged.
“Finishing high up can help but you go for a win. This was on home ground. I went for a win last year and finished fourth. I just got pipped at the end.”
Korir looked beaten, even when Hawkins slipped slightly at a burn that marked the home straight of the 8km course, but the 30-year-old pressed his personal turbo boost at the very last.
However, the Kilbarchan prospect will not alter his strategies come London in August. It could pay off for Hawkins and for Muir, Farah said. “There is a great future and, at the same time, it takes a little bit of pressure off me,” said Farah. “We can rely on the others for medals, it’s not just go for Mo.”
Next year, of course, the pair will potentially face off when Farah rededicates himself to the marathon. Hawkins has no intention of ceding his spot atop the British rankings. “Not without a fight,” he smiled. “Even if he is Sir Mo Farah.”
European champion Yasemin Can of Turkey won the women’s 6km with Harriet Knowles-Jones a British winner in the junior women’s event. East took both titles in the Scottish Inter-Districts Championships, with Morag MacLarty and Kris Jones winning the women’s and men’s races.