If there was a man of the match award in cross country it would have been won hands down by Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan) at the Great Edinburgh International at Holyrood Park on Saturday (7 January). Newly knighted Sir Mo Farah was beaten by a British athlete for the first time since his third place in the 4k at this event in 2010 but the senior international 8k was all about Hawkins' magnificent effort that ultimately fell tantalisingly short of victory.
The format of the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Cross Country was a triangular team contest between the USA, Europe and Great Britain. Four races counted and there was a non-scoring, mixed 4x1km international relay for the Stewart Cup and open road and cross country races in a packed programme televised live on BBC.
The undoubted highlight was the men's international, billed as a rematch between last year's winner, Garrett Heath of the USA and the runner-up, Mo Farah. Clearly, Hawkins had not read the script as he powered into the lead and was testing the opposition with uphill surges as Farah was having, by his own admission: "a hard day at the office".
With a lap to run, Hawkins led from Leonard Korir (USA) but a slight slip at a ditch in the final 400m could have cost him the precious yards needed for victory and Korir sprinted past as the partisan crowd shouted themselves hoarse. Mo Farah won many new admirers as he stuck to his task to finish seventh – one place behind Heath once again – to help GB to second behind USA in the team race.
Reflecting afterwards, Hawkins said: “I thought I had it – I couldn’t hear because of the crowd! I’m pleased with the way I ran but obviously a bit disappointed to get beat, but I gave it my all. I noticed there was a bit of a gap but I slipped a bit on one of the last bends, I don’t know if that would have made a difference though, he’s a quality athlete.”
Earlier, European 5000m and 10,000m champion, Yasemin Can won the women's 6km race, with Charlotte Arter (Cardiff, 7th) and Pippa Woolven (Wycombe, 8th) leading the GB challenge. Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington) grabbed a thrilling victory in the junior women's race and there was a fine fourth for 17-year-old Amelia Quirk (Bracknell) to help the team win. In the men's junior 6km Scott Beattie (Morpeth) was 8th on his international debut.
Britain also won the Stewart Cup in the mixed 4x1km relay. Laura Muir (Dundee) superbly anchored the quartet to win the trophy for the first time since its introduction in 2015. Muir received the baton in second place and the GB team captain ran well clear after great work by James Bowness (Trafford), Charlene Thomas (Wakefield) and James West (Tonbridge).
Full results are at the Great Edinburgh cross country website.
Image courtesy British Athletics press.