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Write off Marathon Mo at your peril as other greats had similarly inauspicious debuts

It was the best of times by an Englishman, yet the worst of times - little more than a straw of consolation for a man on whom so much expectation lay.

Mo Farah's marathon debut in London yesterday, in 2hr 8min 21sec, was an improvement of 12 seconds on Charlie Spedding's English record, set in this race in 1985.

Yet, for a man habituated to the highest success, eighth place fell far short of personal aspiration.

Farah finished 68 seconds outside his goal of Welshman Steve Jones' UK best; almost two minutes shy of the European record; and 3min 52sec behind the winner, Kenyan world record-holder Wilson Kipsang.

With the sweat still on his brow, Farah confirmed he would not walk away from the distance. This was not the time to be making career decisions. He should take stock, and see how he recovers, but one should admire a man who never shirks a challenge.

The world and Olympic 5000 and 10,000 metres champion is accustomed to leading roles, but was reduced here to bit player.

This may plant doubts which could invade his psyche. Yet the outcome was predictable, and we suggested as much: that form at intermediary distances counts for little at the marathon.

With the race barely under way, the high rollers dealt their hand of cardiovascular poker, setting off inside world record pace. Farah folded, and retreated into the second group.

"I will be back," he vowed. "I'm not going to finish it like this. I gave it my all but I'm disappointed."

The final eight kilometres are where marathons are won and lost, but Farah was never in the mix as he lost his third successive road race. "I should have gone with the front group," he said later.

If he had gone all in, he would have learned more, yet one cannot fault him for respecting the distance. As Scotland's former Commonwealth champion, Jim Alder, is wont to observe: "At 22 miles a big refrigerator jumps on your back."

When the pacemaker quit, Farah was left to run the hardest part of the race alone. He had been 45 seconds adrift at 15k, yet closed the gap to 38 seconds by half distance, but at 25k he was 49 seconds behind the leaders.

By 30k, with Wilson Kipsang and Stanley Biwott having broken clear, Farah was 64 seconds down, and slowing. When he finally caught Emmanuel Mutai late on, a further doubt may have been planted. Despite his vaunted pace, Farah was unable to beat the Kenyan to the line.

Farah may be urged now to stick with 5000m and 10,000m for the Rio Olympics in 2016 rather than harbour marathon ambitions.

Yet, Olympic marathons are generally tactical. He could yet grow into a winner of such a race.

He should also be aware that Haile Gebrselassie ran seven marathons before setting the first of two world bests, while Haile's predecessor as record-holder, Paul Tergat, on making his debut at the distance, was just six seconds faster than Farah yesterday.

Kipsang's debut was 2:07.13; yesterday' runner-up, Biwott, debuted at 2:14.25.

Don't write off Marathon Mo until he has served his apprenticeship.

In the short term, disappointment may yet spur him to race the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, probably 1500m, before attempting the 5k or 10k at the Europeans.

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