“Sir Mo” became king of Chicago’s roads Sunday.
As rain fell and his feet splashed through puddles on the final stretch, the knighted British runner Mo Farah pumped his arms into the air and blew kisses to the crowd.
Farah’s wife greeted him in an embrace shortly after he crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 11 seconds for his first marathon victory, which set a European record and became the eighth fastest time in Bank of America Chicago Marathon history.
“Definitely, emotions are high,” he said. “It’s a great start. It’s definitely positive. It’s a major marathon. Definitely happy, more than happy.”
The victory cemented Farah’s successful transition from track glory — he won four Olympic gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. He finished third place in London in April in 2:06:21.
“I know I’m capable of mixing with the guys and can run a decent time,” he said. “I know I could have gone a lot faster today.”
Farah held off a competitive field of elite runners, including three former Chicago Marathon champions and 11 runners who had clocked times of at least 2:08. Galen Rupp, from Oregon, failed to defend his 2017 Chicago victory finishing fifth in 2:06:21.
At Friday’s prerace news conference, Farah wore a bib with his last name. Before the marathon, race directors offered him two choices for his official bib.
“I had the option to wear ‘Sir Mo,’ ” he said with a smile. “Why not?”
He certainly appeared in a class of his own.
A pack of 10 runners dwindled to about seven, then to four and then it was just Farah and Mosinet Geremew from Ethiopia. Farah said he wasn’t aware of Geremew’s reputation or if he had a track background, judging how the last few miles would play out. (Geremew said they raced against each other on the track in Beijing.)
Farah spent much of the race strategizing when to make his move, declining to push ahead and waste energy when the pack would spurt forward only to fall back into the same rhythm. It wasn’t until about ¾ of a mile remained that Farah felt comfortable making his own push.
Geremew, who said he had a thigh injury from overtraining, couldn’t keep pace.
“I wanted to go hard and get rid of them as fast I could without causing too much pain at the end,” Farah said of breaking free of the pack.
Geremew finished second in 2:05:24, followed by Suguru Osako who set a Japanese record of 2:05:50 to win a prize from the Japanese government of 100 million yen (roughly $880,000 U.S. dollars).
“It kept me going,” Osako said, announcing he would give a portion of the money to his coach.
The men’s and women’s winners each get $100,000 prizes from the Chicago Marathon.
Rupp looked for positives in his finish, which was faster than last year’s victory of 2:09:20 but still disappointing as some predicted he was on the verge of breaking the American record.
“My goal was to win,” he said. “I ran as best I could today. You have to give credit to Mo and all the guys who beat me. I’m real happy for Mo.”
He fell behind the pack around Mile 23 and didn’t recover.
“You’re still in it; you keep fighting,” Rupp said. “I caught back up again and they pulled away again toward the end. You never want to get broken and throw in the towel and give up. You hold onto belief you’re going to come back until the very end.”
At Mile 21, Farah said he fell into a “ditch” on the course while reaching for his water bottle, causing him some pain. He admitted the rainy conditions didn’t bother him because, after all, he lives in the wet United Kingdom and formerly trained in soggy Portland, but he noted the wind was sometimes a bother.
He said he doesn’t know what his next marathon will be but he said he could clock a time between 2:03 and 2:04.
Farah found Rupp, his former training partner, at the finish line for a quick consolation. He went on to celebrate, posing for a photo with actor and marathoner Kevin Hart and biting into his Chicago Marathon medal as if it was one of his Olympic golds.
After training for two months in Arizona away from his family, he said he’s eager to return to Britain and his four children to celebrate his youngest son’s third birthday next week.
“It makes me work harder,” he said. “I’m just excited to spend time with my kids.”
Then he added, “And chill.”