Surely, surely Garrett Heath can’t do it again. Not against the greatest distance runner of our generation. No way, I said.
Well, my head hurts from all the slapping. He did it again and here I am once more left to wonder why I ever doubt Garrett Heath in this race. A third straight victory at Great Edinburgh XCountry, this one over none other than double Olympic champion Mo Farah does it— I SEE YOU, GARRETT. APOLOGIES FOR DOUBTIN', HOMES. I’ll take my crow to go, thank you very much.
GARRETT HEATH IS THE KING OF EDINBURGH!!!! American beats MO FARAH pic.twitter.com/1EfHmLvR00— FloTrack (@FloTrack) January 9, 2016
Even after two straight wins in the 4k in 2014 and 2015, I didn’t give Heath much of a shot against Mo freakin’ Farah this time around, especially with this one being 8k. The Brit has won the last three global titles at 10,000m, meanwhile Garrett Heath has yet to make an Olympic or World Championship team. But on Saturday in Scotland, their resumes mattered little. Heath clearly has a tremendous amount of confidence on this course, and an extra 4k plus the Mo-Bot didn't intimidate him.
“It’s been a surprise for me actually. I mean, I don’t think you can ever expect to beat Mo Farah. The guy’s got an amazing record, whether it’s on cross country or the track, he’s nearly impossible to beat,” Heath told reporters afterwards. “I was confident that I was fit, and I wanted to get out there and give myself a chance, but I can’t say I was confident I was going to beat him. I don’t know, I love cross country.”
Later he joked, "I'm starting the campaign to bring cross country back for the Olympics."
When asked about his success on the Edinburgh course, Heath suggested that his upbringing in icy Minnesota made him comfortable in these Euro-type conditions. “I think it’s the mud, the cold and the mud. Growing up in Minnesota, that’s just what we grew up with. I prefer a little more snow, but hey, I’ll take the mud.”
The American won this morning in 25:29, two seconds clear of Farah in second in 25:31. In a brilliant performance of his own, former Portland All-American Scott Fauble, who turned pro just this last year, was third in 25:38.
HOW ABOUT GARRETT HEATH AND SCOTT FAUBLE U-S-A U-S-A pic.twitter.com/YqUaEV7R93— FloTrack (@FloTrack) January 9, 2016
But back to Mr. Heath.
He took it to Farah in the final 600 meters of the race, the latter running his first cross country race in five years. The last time the world’s greatest distance runner ran on the mud and grass it was at this very event in 2011, which he won. That’s what was supposed to happen today.
I thought that even when Heath held the lead with 200 meters to go. Surely Farah will get him, I said. He’s done it so many times on the track you just expect it now.
Not today. Not here. Not up against the King of Edinburgh.
Farah was no match at the end (that is a weird thing to write), as the Brit joined World Cross Country champion Japheth Korir, three-time 1500 World champion Asbel Kiprop, and oh yeah, the one and only 5k/10k World record holder himself Kenenisa Bekele as just the latest Edinburgh scalp that Heath can add to his pile from this event. Even with the distance doubled up from the previous two years, it made no difference. Garrett Heath is to Great Edinburgh what Mo Farah is to the track. In short, unbeatable.
Farah obviously expected to win, but offered up this consolation afterwards:
Farah: "Better to lose now than later in the season" #GEXC2016— FloTrack (@FloTrack) January 9, 2016
The course was quite muddy as is customary at this race and European cross country in general. Up the final hill as Farah was frantically trying to catch up to the lumbering Heath, he appeared to slip and get off balance ever-so-slightly. Maybe he would’ve caught the American if not for that, but I really doubt it. Farah couldn’t hang with him when both men started shifting into their final gears with 400 to go, as Heath powered away in the hilly section just ahead of the finish line.
It’s nothing short of incredible what Heath has been able to do at this race over the last three years. Yes, he’s a solid track runner, with PRs of 3:34 (1500), 7:37 (3000m), and 13:16 (5000m), but he’s probably not among the first five guys in a discussion about the best Americans right now. Rupp, Jager, True, Centro, Hill, those guys have done much more than Heath has. And yes, I get that this is an early season race and it’s cross country, but it still doesn’t explain how Heath has been able to run off this string of victories. There are no words. I guess incredible will have to do.
In the women’s senior 6k, Great Britain’s Kate Avery took over the lead at halfway at 10:31 and never looked back en route to a 21:05 victory. The 2014 NCAA XC champion was four seconds clear of runner-up Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland in 21:09. Amy Van Alstine was the top American in 21:41.
In the 4x1k relay, the team from Scotland, anchored by 2015 1500 World Championship fifth place finisher Laura Muir, won in 11:34. The Americans were a distant fifth in 11:57.
Top American preps Phillip Rocha (2nd at Foot Locker) and Katie Raisberger (NXN champion) turned in a pair of fifth place finishes in the junior races, with Brits Alex Yee and Bobby Clay taking victories in the boys’ 6k and girls’ 4k, respectively.
Team Great Britain won the overall competition with 125 points, with Team Europe second with 197 and USA third with 232.
You can watch (or re-watch) the full broadcast here.