HE made history in winning the Great North Run six years on the bounce but Sir Mo Farah's stand-out memory at the world's biggest half-marathon is a dramatic defeat a decade ago.

Flanked by two Ethiopian greats in an epic ding-dong for the ages, Farah, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele traded blows before Bekele, who at one stage looked to be slipping through the back door, put a surge in to win.

"It was incredible," says Farah, after reliving the final stages.

Farah had to settle for silver in 2013 but for the man who had scorched to double Olympic gold in London 12 months earlier, it was the start of a love affair with the Great North Run. He was unbeatable on the roads of Tyneside from 2014 to 2019, which is why, when Farah finally made a decision on retirement at the end of last year, it felt natural to bring the curtain down on his remarkable career in the North East.

On Sunday, Farah - a four-time Olympic gold medalist and six-time world champion, will toe the start line and cross the finish line for the final time.

"This is it, this is my last one, after this I've retired," he tells the Northern Echo.

"I'll be very emotional because that's all I know, running. I've got so much joy out of it and so many memorable moments, on and off the track and with my family.

"Over the years the Great North Run has always been my final race before a break. To me it was really important to give back and finish where I've had such a good streak."

When Sir Brendan Foster received a call from Farah on Boxing Day alerting the Great North Run founder of his plans to finish his career at this year's race, he was overjoyed. He wasn't so thrilled, however, when he learnt that Farah was taking part in Soccer Aid in June.

"He was telling me not to play, but I said to him, 'you know how much I love football'," laughs Farah.

"He just said to me make sure I don't get injured."

Farah came through the game unscathed but it's injuries that have slowed him down in recent years. In the race against Father Time, there's only ever one winner.

"When you're an elite athlete and your body allows you to do 120 miles a week, week in, week out, you can adjust training and you know what it takes to win. That's what it takes to be a champion," he says.

"But when your body isn't allowing you do that 120 miles a week and it's only letting you do 70 miles. When you keep breaking down, that's when you know it's time. And honestly, since 2019 my body hasn't been quite the same.

"I get six weeks in, three weeks out, go again, another problem. So for me it was really important to know when to call it."

In 2019, Farah was rocked by the sudden death of Neil Black, his long-time physio and former performance director of UK Athletics

"That year was the hardest," he says.

"When Neil Black passed away, I struggled more than anyone else. Nobody knew my body better than him. He'd been my physio since I was 16 and knew me inside out. You take that for granted and it was difficult.

"It was a difficult decision to say I was going to retire because all I've known is running and that's what makes me happy. But at some point you have to call it. And if the Olympics weren't pushed back (to 2021 from 2020 due to covid) and that was my last Olympics, I probably would have called it then.

"For me, I've done it all, the Olympics, the worlds, I've done everything I need to do, so where do I go from there?"


What does Farah do after Sunday? He's not quite sure. But don't expect to see the man who Sir Brendan Foster believes is the greatest British sportsperson of all time rocking up at a parkrun.

"Nah, I might jog with my kids but you won't see me jogging for the sake of it," laughs Farah.

"I think I'm just going to take a nice break and find something that will motivate me.

"I'll probably go to the gym, play football, play golf. I've never played golf, I've been invited to events so I'll have to get in it."

Does retirement worry him?

"It does, but I have my family there," he says.

"If you have no family and all you know is sport and there's nothing on the other side, that's hard. But I have a good family around me. But I can't keep still. I have to be doing something.

"I'd love to be able to coach and give back to others and stay involved in sport. But again, you have to find the right role and when you find it, enjoy it and see it not as work but something you're passionate about."

Farah's farewell is unlikely to be capped with a seventh Great North Run victory. He could only manage fourth at The Big Half in London last week and he has fierce competition in the form of Geoffrey Kamworor and Muktar Edris, who beat Farah to the 2017 world title over 5,000m and then named one of his children after the British great!

Regardless of how the race plays out, Farah will enjoy it.

"It's going to be incredible," he says.

"The support I've had over the years here has always been amazing, but this time, with it being my final one, it's going to be emotional.

"I'm in a good place and I'm just going to take it all in and enjoy it."