Will Eliud “Buddha” Kipchoge defeat an agitated Mo Farah on Sunday?

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© Copyright – 2019 – Athletics Illustrated

Sir Mo Farah, four-time Olympic and six-time World Track and Field Championships gold medallist’s behavior leading up to the 2019 Virgin London Marathon this Sunday is erratic and somewhat concerning. Is it all a case of pre-race jitters?

Farah, at the very end of a press conference for the London Marathon, added that training has gone well, except for one thing. He claimed to be robbed of cash, cell phones and a Tag Heuer watch that his wife Tania gave him – it has sentimental value. In bizarre fashion, he named hotel owner Haile Gebrselassie. He was apparently disparaging the hotel owner as if he had something to do with the theft.

Gebrselassie owns the Yaya Africa Athletics Village hotel located just outside of Addis Ababa and is a former marathon world record holder at 2:03:59 from the 2008 edition of the Berlin Marathon.

Gebrselassie shot back that Farah’s behavior, during the months that he stayed at the hotel was disgraceful, but did not go into detail what Farah was up to. Ethiopian Sisay Tsegaye alleges that Farah kicked him in the neck during an altercation at the hotel gym. Farah believed that the athlete-coach was copying his workout regime.

Although Tsegaye claims that it wasn’t a big deal, it is alarming behavior for Farah, which begs a few questions:

1.) What was Farah doing at a hotel for months in Ethiopia away from his family?

He left Portland, Oregon and Alberto Salazar in 2016 to return to London with his family, for that particular reason, it seems quite odd that he would spend months in Ethiopia.

At the time, Alberto Salazar who was acting as his coach was being investigated (ongoing) by the USATF regarding alleged doping. Farah claimed that was not the reason for leaving Portland.

He said, “I’m leaving simply because my family and I are moving back to London. We all loved spending our summer here and Tania and I realised how much we have missed spending time with our friends and family – and the kids are so happy here, too.”

“We want the kids to grow up in the UK. It’s the right thing to do for my family. But both Nike Oregon Project and Alberto are based in the USA, so it just would not be possible to continue our relationship from London.”

But Addis Ababa is located 8700-kilometres south of London. Portland is just 7900-kilometres west. Portland, culturally and environmentally-speaking, would be closer to London than Addis Ababa is.

Gebrselassie has since claimed that their feud started when he refused access to the hotel to Somalian coach Jama Aden, who Farah has always taken a great effort to distance himself from, but apparently, according to Gebrselassie, he was there to see Farah.

Aden was arrested in 2016 in Sabadell, Spain, at a hotel. Apparently, 20 of his 22 athletes that were on hand were tested for drugs. Apparently, Aden was under Spanish police surveillance for at least one month, which would require a substantial investment in manpower and technology – they must have had good cause to monitor the coach.

In regards to the altercation in the hotel gym, Farah’s coach Gary Lough has gone on record to say that Gebrselassie is going by hearsay evidence and was not actually present for the altercation.

2.) Why did Farah have 2,500 pounds ($3,300 USD) in cash in his hotel room in a duffle bag?

According to Gebrselassie, Farah refused the use of a safe that was offered. Farah’s duffle bag of cash was for purchasing what?

3.) What was Farah’s disgraceful behavior like?

Although the victim downplays the alleged assault, he did say that Farah kicked him in the neck. Is this the appropriate behavior for a four-time Olympic gold medallist and a knighted Brit?

One can assume that there are details missing and that there is much more to the story, meanwhile, world record holder Eliud Kipchoge and Farah have a marathon to run on Sunday.

Farah has yet to run a marathon that matches his ability over the 5,000 and 10,000-metre distances. His best so far is 2:05:11 from Chicago last October. Unless something out of Kipchoge’s control happens, like an injury, he should beat Farah. The question is by how much and will he win the race?

Their personal bests over 10,000-metres and the half-marathon are very similar at 26:46.57 and 59:32 for Farah and 26:49.02 and 59:25 for Kipchoge respectively.

Farah just may hit it this Sunday and run a 2:03 or better; it would be about time.

Comparatively, during the 2019 Dubai Marathon, there were two lesser-known Ethiopians who ran sub-2:04:00 Getaneh Molla and Herpasa Negasa finished in 2:03:34 and 2:03:40 respectively. Asefa Mengistu also of Ethiopia crossed the line in third place in 2:04:24. The three performances in one race are within the top-35 all-time.

In the 2018 edition, four Ethiopians cracked 2:05 with no problem.

2:04:06            Tamirat Tola
2:04:06            Asefa Mengistu
2:04:08            Sisay Lemma
2:04:15            Birhanu Legesse

The first three performances are the 25, 26 and 27th fastest performances all-time.

Farah’s 2:05:11 is the 85th fastest. Expect him to pace for two-minutes faster. Apparently, the first half will go out under 61:25.

Twenty-two-year-old Ethiopian Tola Shura owns a best of 2:04:49 from London 2018. Expect him to be a major threat for the win. At 20 and 21-years of age, he won the Rome and Frankfurt Marathons.

At the other end of the spectrum, Wilson Kipsang at age 37 may have something left in him. His best is 2:03:13 from the 2016 edition of the Berlin Marathon. The performance tied the 2014 world record by Emmanuel Mutai from 2014. He has run in the 2:03s at least four times. Kipsang was heralded for a few years nearly as much as Kipchoge is now.

Kipsang has won the marathon majors competition and has owned course records in Frankfurt (2:04:57), Lake Biwa (2:06:13), London (2:04:29), and Tokyo (2:03:58).

Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia with a best of 2:04:00 from Dubai 2018 will be a factor at least for the first 36K.

Daniel Wanjiru (2:04:02) and Tamirat Tola (2:04:37) can make the race interesting, but at the end of the day, Shura, Kipsang, Kipchoge, and Farah will draw all of the media attention, hopefully for all of the right reasons.

Thirty-four-year-old Kipchoge may have a lot left in him; however, if his career goes the way of other greats in the marathon distance, his magazine is near empty. Does he have another sub-2:03 in him?

Gebrselassie was often dubbed the Emperor, Kipchoge is known as Buddha. He is the epitome of calm in a raging torrent of pre-race stress, while Farah appears to be on edge.

Perhaps Farah is concerned with what a sub-par performance will do to his marathon career, while the Buddha has nothing left to prove.

The forecasted temperature calls for a nine-degree start and breezy conditions and just a 20 per cent chance of precipitation.