No Mo but the Vitality Big Half show must go on
As we March into the spring marathon season with The Vitality Big Half on Sunday (1 March) the disappointing withdrawal of defending champion, Sir Mo Farah, with a minor achilles tendon injury, apparently sustained while training in Ethiopia, was followed by details of a new top rank challenger for Kenenisa Bekele.
The decision to withdraw was made earlier this month, after the announcement that Sir Mo would be defending his Vitality Big Half title against the double Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele (37) from Ethiopia.
Bekele holds the world 5000m and 10,000m records, has won the IAAF world cross country gold a record 11 times and is the second fastest marathon runner in history (2:01:41) to Eliud Kipchoge's 2:01:39 – both times being set on the lightning fast Berlin course.
Lined up to challenge Bekele in London now is Kenyan distance star Lawrence Cherono (pictured above) who will represent Kenya in the Tokyo Olympic Marathon. Cherono (31) is the Boston and Chicago marathon champion and has won eight of his 11 races over 26.2 miles.
Both men will be using The Vitality Big Half as preparation for upcoming marathons. Bekele is targeting a mouth-watering clash with Eliud Kipchoge in the 40th Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 26 April. Meanwhile, Cherono will aim to defend his Boston Marathon title six days earlier on Monday 20 April.
Cherono, 31, said: “I am really looking forward to coming to London to run in such a high-quality race as The Vitality Big Half and I’m thankful for the opportunity. It is exactly the test I was looking for as I prepare for the Boston Marathon and I am sure it will be a great race."
The Vitality Big Half doubles as the British Athletics Half Marathon Championships and the official trial for the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland on 29 March. This has drawn an exceptional domestic field, including four of the six fastest men over half marathon in the UK last year: Dewi Griffiths, Jake Smith, Ollie Lockley and Chris Thompson.
In the women’s race, the leading British contenders are Hayley Carruthers (fourth at Vitality Big Half last year), Lily Partridge (2nd in 2018; 5th last year), Eleanor Davis and Clara Evans.
Results and report in runABC South next week
Images courtesy The Vitality Big Half