Mo Farah has insisted he’s no regrets about mixing it in the mud of Holyrood Park despite his shock defeat in Saturday’s Great Edinburgh XC.
The double Olympic champion couldn’t pull off his trademark last surge in the 8-kilometre event as Garrett Heath of the USA pulled away to win by two seconds and claim victory in the Capital for the third consecutive year.
With his eyes fully trained on defending his 5000 and 10,000m titles in Rio in August, it’s not time to push any panic buttons, said Farah, who flew out to Ethiopia last night for a six-week training stint.
And even though he confessed to a touch of fear when he felt the sub-zero temperatures, it was a worthwhile New Year tester, the 32-year-old confirmed.
“It would have been better to have nice conditions,” he said. “But you have got to get out there and race. That’s part of athletics in any condition. The important thing is you race and mix it. I haven’t raced for so long. The last time was at the Great North Run.”
Despite the freeze, the presence of the five-time world champion drew bumper crowds to the cross-country showpiece that saw Great Britain and Northern Ireland top the overall team standings ahead of Europe and the USA – with Kate Avery winning the senior women’s 6k and Alex Yee and Bobby Clay making it a double triumph for the hosts in the junior races.
And coming back to Holyrood, where he competed several times before his unforgettable achievements at London 2012, brought the old days flooding back for Farah.
“I went back to the team meeting,” he said. “And it just reminds me when you get picked for England, Wales or Scotland and you are in that team meeting. The course, the pens you go through, and whoever finishes highest you go at the front. It throws back memories.
“There are young kids there and I was one of them. As a kid I was so excited to see the senior team and it does throw back memories again.”
Heath continued his streak of success in a time of 25 minutes and 39 seconds with Callum Hawkins the top Scot in fourth and Andy Butchart seventh.
And the Stateside star signalled he’ll be back for more in 2017.
“It’s been a surprise for me every year actually,” he said. “I don’t think you can ever expect to beat Mo Farah. The guy’s got an amazing record and whether it’s cross-country or the track he’s nearly impossible to beat. I was confident that I was fit and I wanted to get out there and give myself a chance, but I can’t say I was confident I was going to beat him. But, I don’t know, I just love cross country, particularly this course.”
Meanwhile Jake Wightman believes his winter warm-up can pay dividends in the summer after helping Scotland lift the Stewart Cup with a win in the 4x1km relay.
The Edinburgh AC prospect linked up with Steph Twell and Cameron Boyek to give the hosts a cushion before Laura Muir fended off GB&NI to secure victory. “It was tough because there’s a speed there that I probably haven’t hit since about August,” Wightman, the former European junior 1500m champion, said. “I felt like I was going to be sick afterward because it was such a shock to the system. But I know this will have done me good in the long run. I wasn’t sure how much I’d get from coming straight back from altitude but I felt a lot better than I was expecting.”
With club-mate Josh Kerr impressing despite a tough time for Scotland’s eighth-placed B team, the Holyrood outing – that attracted thousands of fun runners for the adjoining Great Winter Run – will now be a platform to build for the season ahead.
“It’s a quality event to compete against quality opposition, especially on the first leg, to go out and get a proper race,” Wightman said. “It’s the first chance as well to see how everyone else is running and I guess now we’re into 2016, everything’s started to think about the Olympics.”
Scotland ended with three team golds out of six races in the Celtic Nations XC with Sean Chalmers and Erin Wallace taking individual victories.