4th March 2018


Mo Farah (coach: Gary Lough, club: Newham & Essex Beagles) and Charlotte Purdue (Nick Bideau, Aldershot, Farnham & District) took the overall victories and the incorporated British half-marathon titles at the Vitality Big Half in London this morning.

On a weekend when the eyes of the athletics world were on the first global track and field championships since Farah’s departure to focus on road running, the four-time Olympic champion showed his preparations for the Virgin Money London Marathon were on course with a three-second win over Daniel Wanjiru in 61:40.

Just two seconds behind Wanjiru, last year’s London Marathon winner, was Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins, Kilbarchan AC), who had run with both until the dying stages. Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon, Liverpool Harriers) came home in 65:03 to take bronze in the British championships.

In temperatures milder than the capital has seen most of this week but still chilly, the eventual top three were clearly not keen to hang about at the start near Tower Bridge and quickly established a big gap. The pace was nevertheless slower than all three have run as they kept close order throughout. The only exception came at just after five miles when Farah shot off and quickly established a gap of about six metres, but this was closed before 10km was reached in 29:08.

Hawkins did most of the leading and, particularly from 10 miles onwards, was clearly trying his best to pull away and take the sprint finish out of his legendary compatriot. However, Farah looked comfortable and the crowds waiting at the finish alongside the Cutty Sark were treated to the customary sight of the British half-marathon record-holder sprinting to the line.

It was the slowest of Farah’s 11 half-marathons, but he can take confidence from beating Wanjiru, a 2:05 marathoner who will be among his toughest opposition in a strong field back in the capital on April 22.

“I thought the race would be a bit faster than that,” Farah said. “It was nice to feel comfortable in myself. I know I’m in shape.”

Having just spent six weeks training in Ethiopia, he believes he is set to perform well in London over the marathon distance next month.

“Some of the sessions and work I’ve done in the last three or four weeks have been unbelievable,” said Farah, who added he may be interested in wearing a GB vest for the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in 2019. I think I still have it. It’s just the mental side of it. I want to be as competitive as on the track.”

It is rare for Farah to be pushed for a British marathon title as he was by Hawkins today, but he was delighted to see stern competition from a compatriot.

“Callum’s a great athlete,” he said. “He works hard. You can’t take that away from him. We’ve showed what is possible. We don’t need to have this barrier [between us and the Kenyans]. Anything is possible if you train hard, work hard, as Callum and Andrew Butchart are others coming through are showing.”

Hawkins, who was fourth at the World Championships marathon last year, showed he is back near his best again and on course for a good showing at the Commonwealth Games in April.

“I’d like to have gone a bit quicker, but I got out there and did what I could,” he said. “I’ve been going quite well – I ran sub-64 for a half-marathon in training feeling quite comfortable. I was hoping for quicker but I think it was mainly down to the course.

“I did try my best towards the end to get a gap but he was just sitting there. I had to because I knew coming into that last corner I’m not going to break him. I was just doing everything I could.”

Mellor, who was punctuating a spell of training in Spain to race here, was satisfied as he took the first 10 miles at marathon pace and then pushed harder in the last 5km. He will be back here next month for the 26 miles too.

Next across the line were Tsegai Tewelde (John Mackay, Shettleston Harriers) in 65:11, Matt Sharp (Geoff Watkin, Enfield & Haringey AC) in 65:13 and Josh Griffiths (self-coached, Swansea Harriers) in 65:18.

Purdue took exactly a minute from her personal best with 70:29 after working with Partridge (Alan Storey, Aldershot, Farnham & District) until around 15km. Charlotte Arter (James Thie, Cardiff AC) was third in 71:35, also a PB.

They had both passed 10km in 33:11 – on course for sub-70 minutes – but in heavy training for the London Marathon the pace dropped off slightly.

“[I’m] really pleased,” said Purdue, who was 15th for GB at last year’s World Championships marathon. “A minute PB and got the win as well so double whammy.”

Regarding their fast start, she said: “I flew back from Australia this week and I’ve hardly done anything so I felt really fresh. So I just wanted to go out hard today purely because I’d not done much running. I just wanted to see how I felt.

“I remember thinking, ‘this is fast’, but I didn’t feel tired so I didn’t want to slow down.”

The race gives her confident for her return to the capital on April 22.

“It’s great [to win the British title]. Half-marathon is an event which I’ve always struggled a bit at compared to the marathon. To run faster over the half is really promising for the marathon.”

Partridge was similarly pleased as she heads into her second marathon hoping to improve on debut in Seville of 2:32:09 last autumn.

“I think I blew up as opposed to Charlotte going away and then her legs came off [at about 11 and a half miles] so I don’t think the gap got any bigger.

“I think me and Charlotte are more than capable of running 69 minutes right now, but we’re in marathon work and you just miss that top end, your lactate threshold is at slower pace. We’re both in the best shape we’ve ever been going into a marathon so we’re really looking forward to London.

“I’d like to run under 2:28 but I’m fairly new to marathon running, so I’ve just got to see how it goes.”

Arter’s PB of well over a minute and a half was most welcome as she uses the roads to prepare for a track season.

“I knew on a good day I could run under 72 minutes so I’m chuffed with that,” she said.

David Weir (Jenny Archer) was second in the wheelchair race in 52:17 behind winner Marcel Hug’s 51:36. As he seeks an eighth London Marathon title next month, the six-time Paralympic champion will use it as a gauge of his fitness following a long period out of racing.

“I know what I need to to do in the next month or so,” he said. “I’m out in the Algarve for a couple weeks so I can do a bit more distance. Everything else is there. It’s just a bit of the stamina.”

Rising British talent John Smith (Archer) – who will compete at the Commonwelath Games for Team England next month – was just two seconds behind in third.

Switzerland took a wheelchair double with Manuela Schar crossing the line first woman in 56:39.

Full results will be available here https://www.thebighalf.co.uk/event-info/results/