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An emotional Sir Mo Farah admitted that the 2023 London Marathon will be his swansong over the distance – saying his body “can’t do it” anymore.
The hometown hero will take to the course – which runs from Blackheath and Greenwich to The Mall – for a fourth and final time this Sunday (April 23) in his sixth career marathon.
Despite being Britain's most decorated athlete – whose accolades include four Olympic Golds and six World Championship titles – he has been unable to replicate his track success over 26.2 miles with the same ease as some of his peers like Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele.
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He won what was only his third marathon in Chicago, setting a then-European record of 2 hours 5 minutes and 11 seconds in the process, in 2018. He finished a career-high third earlier that year in London.
In 2019, he repeated the London-Chicago double, finishing third and eighth, respectively.
After dropping down the distances to try and qualify for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the 10,000 metres on track – which he was unable to do – Farah has returned for a final swing at one of sport’s most gruelling events.
“The key thing for me is, as long as I can stay injury-free and do the work, then I’ll continue to do it,” Farah, who turned 40 last month, said.
“But my body is not allowing me, and I think Sunday will be my last marathon, just being realistic. It won’t be my last race but, in terms of the marathon, London will be my last.”
The last few years of Farah’s careers have seen mixed fortunes on and off the track.
He is still one of a few genuine mainstream stars the sport has to offer, something reinforced by his appearance as a campmate in I’m A Celebrity, where his squeamish nature was tested even by a falling leaf, while he won an episode of the immensely popular TV show Taskmaster.
On the other hand, he hasn't raced a marathon since Chicago in 2019, having pulled out of last year’s London Marathon just over a week before the event through injury.
And while he won the Big Half last year – a half marathon held in London – he made headlines when Ellis Cross, harshly branded a ‘club runner’, beat him at the London 10k.
His only race this year has been a 10k in Gabon, where he finished eighth in what he said were tough conditions at the end of a training camp in Ethiopia, from which he returned this week.
He admits to have taken his success and fitness “for granted” and that the past two years have been "tough" from a performance point of view.
But the race gives an opportunity for Farah to go full-circle on his glittering career, having started out at the Mini London Marathon over 20 years ago.
"When you get to the top you don’t change your routine, you just do race after race, training, training, each year," he said.
“For many, many years you take it for granted because you keep going and keep going but now as you get older, that totally changes because you can’t do what you did.
“For me that has been the most frustrating because nothing feels like it has changed but you can’t do it and it happens.
“The last few years have definitely been tough and even last year a week and a half out getting injured, it was hard. I saw my team-mate (Belgian Bashir Abdi), the guy I was training with, go well and finish third while I was watching on TV, but that’s athletics.
He continued: “I started the mini-marathon here so for me it will be quite emotional. I remember (when I was) 14-years-old, I was here watching great athletes running on the Sunday and I was here taking part in the mini-marathon.”
He remained vague over what race plans he has for the future, but ruled out this year’s World Championships in Budapest.
But whatever the future holds, Farah, the most successful British track athlete in the history of the modern Olympics, is looking forward to seeing the London crowds one last time.
He added: “The support, the people coming out in London, I think that will get to me but I will try not think about it and run. After the race maybe there might be a bit of tears and emotion.”
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