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Farah set to put his best foot forward in a high-quality Antrim Coast Half Marathon

 

Mo Farah

Four-time Olympic gold medallist and six-time world champion Mo Farah leads an all-star field of 70 athletes in tomorrow's P&O Antrim Coast Half Marathon, starting in Larne.

Former Olympic athlete James McIlroy, who hails from Larne, has succeeded in putting together the highest-quality half marathon field ever assembled here.

He has not only secured household name Farah but also upwards of half of this year's top dozen-ranked male and female British competitors.

The star attraction is the biggest road racing name to compete here since Zola Budd's memorable appearance in the Bangor 10k back in 1986.

Farah (37) is fitting in the event between his one-hour track world record last weekend and preparations for his pacing role in the London Marathon in three weeks' time. Despite the classy opposition, there is little doubt that he should be able to contain his opponents tomorrow.

That is because Farah, who has two Olympic golds in the 5,000m and a further two at 10,000m, holds the British record of 59 minutes, 32 seconds which he set in 2015.

His one-hour track record in Brussels last weekend also showed he is once more in the sort of form to break 60 minutes for the half marathon distance.

The big imponderables relate to a quality pace maker for Farah plus the wind element in Larne, predicted to be moderate, which can upset any record plan. Either way, Farah is certain to break the Northern Ireland All Comers record of 62 minutes, 22 seconds which belongs to the Klimes twins of the Czech Republic, set in the 1986 Belfast Half Marathon.

As a 22-year-old, a relatively unknown Farah finished a credible sixth behind four Kenyans in the 2005 Stormont Cross Country International.

The best of his opposition is Derby's Ben Connor, who has a 61.34 time this year from Barcelona. Also in the mix should be Swansea's Josh Griffiths (63.34), Frank Baddick of Newham (63.54) and Blackheath's Scott Overall, who has a PB of 61.25.

Belfast's Stephen Scullion and Commonwealth Games fourth-place finisher Kevin Seaward of St Malachy's have both been selected for the Tokyo Olympics Marathon and should be in the mix as their half marathon PB times are comparable to their English opposition.

They will need to be at their very best to match Paul Pollock's NI record of 62.09, set in the 2014 World Championships.

Exeter's Joe Pavey (46) famously won the European 10,000m title at the age of 40. She will be in Larne but is receiving treatment for back pain. The favourite for the ladies' title is Birchfield's Lily Partridge, who ran an impressive 70.50 at Greenwich just before lockdown.

With new NI half marathon record holder Anne Marie McGlynn (72.13) a late withdrawal, local interest centres on former Commonwealth Games athlete Gladys Ganiel who was second in Larne last year in 76.05. Others include Jessica Craig of North Down (76.12).

Belfast Telegraph