Even after defeat they chanted Mo Farah’s name like a mantra, the cries of “Mo! Mo!” growing more urgent as the chances of a selfie with him faded. The reaction is similar whenever he runs in Britain. For all the negative headlines around the United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation into his coach, Alberto Salazar, and the questioning of his relationship with Jama Aden, the Somali coach who is under investigation by Spanish police, Farah remains this island’s most popular athlete by a mile.
However, at the Great Edinburgh International XCountry on Saturday there were the first signs of a changing of the guard; a primitive sketch of the post-Mo era. It could be heard in the enormous reaction for the young Scottish athlete Laura Muir, who on Wednesday had shattered Liz McColgan’s UK indoor 5,000m record by 14 seconds and showed no ill-effects as she anchored Britain to victory in a 4x1km race.
And in the spirited response to her fellow Scot Callum Hawkins, who surged ahead at the start of the 8km men’s race and was caught only metres from the line. Farah, meanwhile, was 43 seconds back in seventh.
It would be foolish to overly analyse Farah’s defeat. He is a track animal not a mudlark and he had been unwell over Christmas. Barring injury, he will be a prohibitive favourite to win 5,000m and 10,000m golds at the world championships in London. Yet as he heads towards the marathon in 2018 and retirement probably after 2020, it is increasingly clear that Muir’s performances could soon mark her out as a mainstream star.