Garrett Heath already has a hat-trick of wins at the Great Edinburgh International XC but the American touched down in the Capital ahead of tomorrow’s 2017 edition of the event admitting he’s still hungry for four – or even more.
It is 12 months since the Minnesotan stunned the world by knocking Mo Farah into second place in Holyrood Park to take a victory for the third successive year, one of the few knocks in another otherwise golden campaign for the Briton who went on to defend both his Olympic titles in Rio.
And Heath, 31, said: “It was unreal. Unfortunately I didn’t get to Rio to meet him there but in Edinburgh, I wanted to keep him as close as possible for as long as possible. And if you’re in it with one lap to go, anything can happen.
“I felt pretty good. And honestly it wasn’t until the last 50 metres that I thought I had much of a shot. I had a step on him but I kept waiting for him. I could hear the shouts of ‘go, Mo.’ You know what kind of kick he has and I kept waiting for it to arrive. So when I got to the end and won, I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal.”
They’ll do it all again this weekend with the 8km men’s international capping a slate of ten races in the BBC televised showpiece – following in the wake of thousands of fun runners braving the cold for the Great Winter Run.
Farah, fresh from landing a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List, isn’t one to talk about seeking revenge but Heath won’t be standing aside on a course he’s made his home from home.
He said: “I can’t put anything particular on why I keep doing well here. I grew up in Minnesota. I love the cold. I love the snow, probably more than most. For me, these aren’t far off ideal racing conditions and I’d take them over 30 degrees.
“I love being in Edinburgh. It feels a bit nostalgic for me, a bit like the kind of races I did in high school. You have to get stuck in. When I’m back in Minnesota, it’s -10°C and so it feels a bit warmer coming here. But I look forward it each time.
“The exciting part in Edinburgh is that it’s such a cool atmosphere with so many people coming out. The course is lined, the spectators are going crazy and part of it is that national pride element, with Team GB against Team USA and Team Europe.
“You feel like all the athletes have people cheering them on and that’s fun. You know the locals have their favourites but I loved it last year when I had so many folk shouting at me when Mo was closing me down. It gave me a shot of adrenaline, especially on the last lap.”
It won’t be just be the pair in the running with Kenyan-born Turks Aras Kaya and Polat Arikan and Scottish hope Callum Hawkins, the top three from last month’s European cross-country championships in Sardinia, aiming to make their mark.
The women’s 6km will also have a stacked field with another Turk, European champion Yasemin Can, and past champion Fionnuala McCormack up against British opposition that includes Scotland’s European 5000m medallist Steph Twell and Olympic 10000m finalist Beth Potter. While the junior men’s and women’s line-ups include rising Scots Sol Sweeney and Erin Wallace against the best prospects from the USA and the rest of Europe.
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team will be captained by Laura Muir, three days after she broke the UK indoor 5000 metres record – with the Perthshire prospect running in the 4x1km relay for the Stewart Cup in a four-strong squad that also includes Glasgow-based James Bowness. “I’ve done it twice before,” the 25-year-old said. “I won the first one with an England B team and made the England A team last year. So it’s now good to progress into the British team.
“I know the American team will be strong. They have two guys who have run under 3:55 for a mile so they’re good. The Scottish team has males who are very strong as does the English women so I’m not sure we’re favourites. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.”
• Great Edinburgh International XC: Inter-Districts races (10.15am), Junior Internationals (12.15), 4x1km relay (1.25pm), Senior Internationals (2.10pm)