Mo Farah took an unprecedented fourth consecutive Great North Run title after overcoming a tough challenge from New Zealander Jake Robertson.

Competing for the first time since hanging up his track spikes last month, the four-time Olympic champion had been fully expected to make a winning start to the road chapter of his career. However, Robertson had other ideas and led him into the final 400m before Farah stopped the clock on 60:06, six seconds clear.

Late entrant Feyisa Lilesa was third with 61:32 as Wales’ Dewi Griffiths was the second British athlete home, placing an impressive seventh in a life time best of 62:53.

After race founder and official starter Brendan Foster set off the 50,000-plus runners in the world’s biggest half-marathon, the pace was more sedate than it had been for the elite women, who had started their race earlier.

A group of 10, which included 59:47 runner Zane Robertson – twin of Jake – went through 5km in 14:30 with American Dathan Ritzenhein, the runner-up last year, doing much of the leading.

Soon after nine athletes went through 10km in 29:19, an impatient and easy-looking Farah went to the fore and split up the pack. Within 2km, Jake Robertson, Lelisa and Farah were on their own and it was the Ethiopian 2016 Olympic marathon silver medallist who was first to drop off.

On the sharp downhill by the 12-mile marker, Robertson was clearly trying to move away to take the sting out of the legendary Farah sprint finish. The British record-holder was tested but Robertson had no answer in the last 200 metres.

Farah, who ran his best of 59:22 here in 2015, admitted he had to work hard here after easing up since winning the 5000m at the Zurich Diamond League final. He told the BBC: “That was really, really tough. I’m sore everywhere. I’ve never been this sore. I think it’s a lack of training.

“Four miles to go I was just hanging on, gritting my teeth. Two miles and he got closer and I managed to believe myself and said, ‘Dig, dig’. And I thought if I could just sit on him, at the end I could sprint.”

Farah confessed he was looking forward to a sticky toffee pudding or apple pie as his end-of-season treat and a holiday with his family before embarking on training to step up to the marathon, with his sights firmly on the London Marathon next April.

The fast-improving Griffiths took more than half a minute from his personal best as double world track champion Bernard Lagat was among his scalps in eighth. He ran 28:16.07 for 10,000m on the track this year as he sought the Worlds qualifying time, but on this form can hope to make global championships in future.

Olympian Chris Thompson was next Briton to finish, running 65:28 as he continues a return from yet another injury. Next across the line was Ireland’s Stephen Scullion with 65:52, putting him a place ahead of Paul Marteletti (65:57) and then fellow Brits Dominic Shaw (66:04) and Nick Torry (66:22).

In the wheelchair race, Britain’s Simon Lawson took his first Great North win, recording 44:22 after he shook off Canada’s Paralympic 100m champion Brent Lakatos over the final 200m. The margin was five seconds as long-time leader Josh Cassidy was a further 30 seconds back.

Meanwhile, Mary Keitany won her third Great North Run title with a dominant display in the women’s race, with Gemma Steel the first British runner in sixth place. The full report on the women’s race can be found here.

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