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United Kingdom

Marathon meltdown as Farah loses his Chicago title while Radcliffe sees her world record eclipsed

One British runner lost his title, another lost her world record. All things considered, it was a tough old day in Chicago for Sir Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe, two pillars of sport in this country whose dents are adding up.

Both have taken hits to their credibility in different ways in the past fortnight, but few will have hurt like those administered on Sunday.

For Farah, a worst ever time in the marathon, an eighth place finish in a race he won last year, and quite possibly a doubt that this is the distance for him. For Radcliffe, it meant the loss of a record she treasured and which, in 16 years, had never been even remotely threatened. Then along came a Kenyan with an iffy agent and controversial shoes and obliterated it.

Mo Farah finished in eighth at the Chicago Marathon - his worst ever showing at the distance

Paula Radcliffe's long-standing world-record was shattered by Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei 

Kosgei crossed the line in Chicago in two hours, 14 minutes and four seconds to win the race

Brigid Kosgei covered 26.2miles in 2:14.04, a full minute and 21 seconds quicker than Radcliffe, and that truly is bonkers, maybe even more startling than what Eliud Kipchoge did in his laboratory experiment a day earlier in Vienna. After the derision Radcliffe drew for the peculiar views she broadcast over the Alberto Salazar doping scandal, she has certainly had better times.

But Farah will feel the acuter ache on Monday morning. What a mess he finds himself in, fighting a battle against the media with all the grace of an octopus crossing the Lake Shore Drive expressway, and now struggling in the domain that has typically been his safe place.

For all else that has gone his way since his former coach Salazar came under investigation in 2015, and until he left the Nike Oregon Project late in 2017, he has excelled at his sport. Not here, though. Not now. Under the heat of the attention that has followed Salazar's doping ban on October 1, he produced a desperately flat performance.

Farah has responded to fierce criticism for his work with disgraced coach Alberto Salazar 

Salazar was banned for 'multiple anti-doping rule violations' after a four-year investigation

His time of 2:09.58 was the worst by a distance of his five career marathons and eighth was jointly his lowest placing. For some measurement on that, it was almost five minutes worse than the European record he set in winning here a year ago and 97 seconds shy of his marathon debut time in London in 2014, way back when he was a track runner.

What possibility now, having also struggled to fifth in the London Marathon this year, that he might return to the 10,000m for the Tokyo Olympics?

He has flirted with that decision in the past year, observing how the distance at which he won two of his four Olympic gold medals had thrown up no overwhelming successor to him. 

It might now look like a more appealing medal shot than this distance, though it is hard to know if the performance was a blip caused by the renewed scrutiny on his past relationship with Salazar. Likewise if what happened in London was a consequence of his damaging exchanges with Haile Gebrselassie.

Only Farah can answer that, but as of Sunday night, no thoughts were forthcoming. 

After a tense media appearance on Friday, in which he was reluctant to criticise Salazar or accept he had made a mistake in staying with him beyond 2015, he didn't speak post-race on Sunday. In light of the nonsense he spouted on Friday, namely the suggestion of racism on the part of the press, maybe silence is his best option.

Kipchoge broke the two hour barrier wearing a bespoke version of the Nike Vaporfly trainers

On the road, he was less than assertive. By eight miles, he was 30m back in seventh, at 10 miles he was 13sec off the leaders and by 12 miles it was 30sec. His time for halfway was 62.54, which was passable, but the second 13.1miles he fell away completely. By the close he was more than three minutes short of his training partner Bashir Abdi, and way down on the winner, Lawrence Cherono of Kenya. 

It was a bad day all round for the former students of Salazar and his now closed Nike Oregon Project. Aside from Farah, Galen Rupp dropped out with a calf injury on 23 miles and Jordan Hassey's bid for the female US record ended with a hamstring problem inside two miles.

That women's race ultimately stole the show as well as Radcliffe's record. Kosgei set off at an incredible pace and won by almost seven minutes, wearing the same Nike Vaporfly shoe that has dominated marathon podiums in recent years and which throws up questions of an uneven playing field. It was notable that the US runner Jake Riley described them as 'like running on trampolines', owing to the carbon plate that runs through the sole.

The men's winner, Cherono, wore the same shoe, but of equal interest is that the two Kenyans are represented by Federico Rosa. That being the same Federico Rosa whose past clients included Asbel Kiprop, Rita Jeptoo and Jemima Sumgong, each banned for EPO positives.

A bad day for Brits, and evidently just another day in athletics.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe has said athletes coached by Salazar should not be tarnished

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