MO Farah was left to reflect on a “hard day at the office” after his first race as “Sir Mo” ended in a disappointing seventh-place finish at the Great Edinburgh International XCountry.
The four-time Olympic champion – who featured on the New Year Honours list, alongside Scottish Olympians Andy Murray, Gordon Reid and Katherine Grainger – suffered the rare experience of being upstaged by another British athlete, Scotsman Callum Hawkins, who was pipped on the line by Leonard Korir of the United States.
Elderslie-born Hawkins, who led for much of the route before being overhauled in the closing metres, finished the eight kilometres course in Holyrood Park in 24 minutes and four seconds, one second behind Korir. A below-par Farah struggled and trailed home in 24mins 49secs, having battled through the field after lying 16th at one stage. The race marked the first time that Farah had finished behind a British-born athlete in any competitive race for seven years.
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That statistic does not take into account the moment that the Olympian finished third over 100 metres in the competition Superstars in November 2012, of course, when he trailed heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua and high jumper Robbie Grabarz.
His performance on Saturday in the capital was almost certainly Farah’s farewell to cross country. He also admitted afterwards that he considered himself to be behind schedule in his preparations for the final track season of his career.
“It’s a hard day at the office – it’s not what I wanted, but it’s where I am,” said the 33-year-old, who will bid to defend his 5,000m and 10,000m titles at August’s World Championships in London, before turning his attention to the London marathon in April.
“I’ve got a quite a lot of work to do. I’m definitely a little bit behind. The last bit of training hasn’t gone as well as I wanted. But I wanted to come out here and represent my country.
“I’ve got a great team behind me, so I’m looking forward to 2017.”
There is no cause for alarm for an athlete who has not lost a major world final since 2011, an extraordinary run of form which has earned him nine gold medals.
He had been beaten in Edinburgh 12 months ago – Farah finished second behind American Garrett Heath – but still went on to hit full stride when it mattered, at the Olympics in Rio.
Meanwhile, Hawkins, who will also compete in the marathon at London 2017, said: “I thought I had it – I couldn’t hear because of the crowd. I’m pleased with the way I ran, am obviously a bit disappointed to get beat, but I gave it my all.”
Hawkins has adopted a new mindset when it comes to racing, and revealed on Saturday that his mental preparation ensured led to his powerful performance in the capital. He added: ‘Over the last year or so I’ve just developed the thought of ‘just go out and if I die, I die, but just go for the win’.
“If it works then great things can happen, but if I fall short then I’m still way up there.”
Hawkins’ compatriots Beth Potter and Steph Twell also impressed on home soil in the Senior Women’s race over 6k, with the athletes finishing in 14th place and 16th place, respectively.