SIR MO FARAH aims to go out on a high as he brings the curtain down on his cross-country career at the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry on Saturday.
Quadruple Olympic champion Farah will renew his rivalries with American Garrett Heath, who pipped the Briton to victory over the same 8km course last year, as invited teams from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States and Europe go head to head in a team competition between juniors, men and women.
With his career on the track coming to an end after the World Championships in London later this year, Sir Mo will focus on the marathon, and has hinted that Saturday will be the final time he will take part in a cross-country event.
“It’s going to be pretty much my last cross-country,” admitted Farah. “When you finish a track season it’s done, you have to plan for the road, you’re probably most likely seeing me doing ten-miles, 15k, then half marathons in order for me to learn about the marathon. I have to be competitive at that level.
“It makes me think that yeah, this is it.
“I’m lucky to have had the career I have had on the track and at some point everything has to come to an end. It’s not what I want to do but at the same time I feel it’s right, I’d like to see what I can do in the 5,000m and 10,000m in London and then after that I want to be able to move towards the marathon.”
Farah’s appearance on Saturday will be the first competition where he will be officially referred to as Sir Mo Farah following his knighthood in the Queen’s New Year honours list.
On his knighthood, Farah said: “It is an honour to be called ‘Sir’. It’s something I’ve never dreamed of as an athlete, to represent your country is exciting. I remember the first time I got a GB vest, that was amazing, so to go on to have the career I have had and to be recognised by my country and the public is incredible.
“This gives young athletes a dream, it gives people a hope and shows that if you work hard at something, you can achieve it.”
His main opponent on the cross-country course tomorrow, meanwhile, is looking forward to making another appearance in a city where he has a winning streak of three years.
Heath, who captains the USA team on Saturday, said: “I love the mud, I love the cold, I love growing out the beard for this time of year, I enjoy coming back here every year - the fans are great.
“It’s an exciting course, the stream crossings switch things up – you never know what you’re going to get. It’s something you don’t see in the United States, cross country over there is basically golf courses, so I’m looking forward to this.
“Mo’s in good shape, he’s looking good. I expect myself to be getting at least a little bit of draught off this guy, he doesn’t give much off, but I expect to be there.
“I always come here with the expectation of being there – anything can happen.
“If we were on the track I don’t know if I’m 26.30 shape yet, but hopefully for cross country I’m ready to go.”
Fionnuala McCormack will be representing Europe in the senior women’s 6k event. The Irishwoman said: “I always look forward to this one because, for me, this is real cross country, even though I’m not sure it’s going to be as tough or mucky as it has been over the years, but I love this course, I’ve been here a lot – I’m looking forward to it.
“I think the best part of the weekend is that it’s an overall competition between the men, women and juniors. It’s not just our race, it’s the race before and race afterwards as well which makes it even more interesting.”
Laura Muir will captain the Great British team and will be the one to watch in the Stewart Cup invitational event which sees teams take part in a 4x1km relay on the cross country course.
Muir, the Scottish Athlete of the Year and British record holder over 1500m, smashed the British indoor 5,000m record held by Liz McColgan in Glasgow on Wednesday evening and is in fine shape ahead of her appearance in the capital.
“Training has been going well and I just wanted to go out there and run a good race, stick to my splits and I managed to achieve a pretty quick time,” said Muir of her record-breaking efforts.
“It’ll be a lot different on Saturday, but I love this race, there’s always a good atmosphere and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be really competitive, I have a strong team and we’re confident.”
- Coverage of the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry begins on BBC One HD at 1.15pm until 3.30pm