‘He can come back stronger’: Kipchoge backs Farah to get over injury problems

Mo Farah has been told to ignore any thoughts of retirement by Eliud Kipchoge, despite being forced to pull out of Sunday’s London Marathon through a hip injury. Farah has only raced seven times in three years, largely due to a series of niggles, and will turn 40 in March. However, Kipchoge, who last week lowered his own world marathon record by running 2hr 01min 09 secs, believes that the Briton still has more big race victories in him.

“Absolutely Mo Farah can still keep going,” said Kipchoge, who is in London to watch the race. “I want to wish him a quick recovery from his injury. Injuries are part of the challenges of elite sport. My advice is to recover from your injury and come back. Mo Farah has a lot more to give. I think he will come back stronger. The training is there and after the injury he can come back and show the world what is actually in him.”

When the 37-year-old Kipchoge was asked if age was just a number for Farah, he nodded. “Absolutely, yes,” he said. “Age is a number. If you are training well and focused in the right direction on what you are doing, then you can continue to perform. Mo can still win the best races.”

Kipchoge, who hinted that he would like to return to London for a race he has won four times, was also asked who should be considered the greatest distance athlete of all time. The debate was sparked on Friday by the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, who is the second-favourite for this year’s London Marathon.

While paying tribute to Kipchoge, Kenenisa stressed that he should be regarded as No 1 because his CV includes three Olympic gold medals, 17 world championship titles and multiple world records, including 5,000m and 10,000m bests that appeared unbeatable until the record advances in spike technology.

Perhaps surprisingly, Kipchoge was in full agreement – despite many people considering him as the greatest. “I agree that Kenenisa is the best of all time,” he said. “He has a lot of medals in cross country, track, Olympics, and he has done well in the marathon. I agree he is the best.”

“Better than you?” Kipchoge was asked. “Absolutely. He has been a positive role model to me and the whole generation. He has won so much on track, winning gold medals in Olympics, world championships and cross country. He is really a role model.”

However, it is clear that Kipchoge is the greatest marathon runner and he believes he can go even faster after knocking 30 seconds off his world record in Berlin. “I think there are still goals for me,” he added. “I don’t want to say if I can run under two hours in an official race but I’ll try to still beat the world record.”

Meanwhile, the London Marathon will be without many of its star names after an unprecedented series of withdrawals. In the men’s race Farah and Tamirat Tola, the winner of the 2022 World Championships marathon in Oregon, are out, along with the second and third in last year’s race, Vincent Kipchumba and Mosinet Geremew. The women’s world record holder Brigid Kosgei, who has suffered a hamstring injury, is also missing, along with Commonwealth champion Eilish McColgan.

However the women’s field still features several world-class athletes, including last year’s winner Joyciline Jepkosgei and the favourite Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who ran the fastest debut marathon in history in winning Hamburg in April in a time of 2:17:23. But the 2019 Berlin champion Ashete Bekere and world silver medallist Judith Korir are not without chances.

The men’s race looks open with six men having run under 2:04:00 – a record for a marathon. The bookies regard Kenya’s Amos Kipruto as the slight favourite, ahead of 40-year-old Kenenisa, who is hoping to roll back the years.