Emile Cairess: ‘I definitely want to break Mo’s record. I can run a lot quicker’

    The changing of the guard usually takes place at Buckingham Palace. But at last year’s London Marathon it happened on Tower Bridge, as Emile Cairess blasted past Mo Farah on the way to finishing as the top British athlete in the race.

    It was a hell of a performance given it was Cairess’s debut over 26.2 miles – and, strikingly, it also came without the benefit of top-end tech. While everyone else in the elite field was wearing the latest carbon-plated supershoes, Cairess came sixth in 2hrs 8 mins 7 secs in Takumi-Sen 9s, which have no carbon plate and are designed for 5km and 10km races. For good measure, he was also wearing a Casio watch that could have been made in the 1970s.

    So when the quiet man of British athletics insists that he will run much faster in London this year – and eventually wants to break Mo Farah’s British record of 2:05:11, lower his personal best to 2:03 and win an Olympic medal – it is easy to believe him.

    “I definitely want to break Mo’s British record,” he says. “I want to run as fast as possible and I feel like I can run a lot quicker than that in the future. An Olympic medal is also my goal – definitely for Los Angeles. Although for this Olympics, if I can qualify, then I would like to be competitive. I wouldn’t be going there just to make up the numbers.”

    It helps that on Sunday he will be wearing the souped-up £450 Pro Evo shoes also worn by Tigist Assefa when she obliterated the women’s world record in September. But his confidence is based on far more than just that. “I’ve definitely progressed a lot,” he says. “My workouts, mileage, anything you can quantify, is better than before.

    “I was also training in Kenya for six weeks with guys that have run 2:04 or 2:05 marathons and I matched up well,” he says. “If I was just at home, I wouldn’t get the exposure to those guys and I think I’d be more daunted by those kinds of times. So I feel like mentally it’s just as important as the physical aspect of the training there.”

    There is something else too. “My coach also has a lot of experience and has trained guys who have run 2:03, Olympic medallists and world champions,” he adds. “And he’s really confident in me.”

    Emile Cairess (in blue) overtakes Mo Farah as they approach the Isle of Dogs in last year’s London Marathon. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

    However, Cairess dismisses a suggestion that he is the next Mo Farah. “Obviously it’s a nice comparison, but I feel like we’re completely different athletes,” he says. “He was one of the best ever. He absolutely dominated the Olympics and world championships and I’m never going to reach that level. I feel like a road runner and he was more on the track. Also, we’re not the same kind of person.”

    The fact that Cairess is appearing in Sunday’s race is a story in itself and says much about his character. Under British Athletics selection policy for the Olympics, he would have been automatically picked for Paris if he had decided to put his feet up this spring as he already has the time needed.

    However, he defied selectors as he felt he needed another run over 26.2 miles to give him a best chance of doing well in Paris – although it carries the risk that he might miss out if he gets injured.

    “I would have been selected in February if I opted not to do another marathon,” he says. “But I felt like I couldn’t go to the Olympics and perform my best having only done one marathon 18 months before. And London fits really well in that. It’s an important part of the process.”

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    Cairess also confides that he is back training with his friend Phil Sesemann, who has already been selected for the Team GB team for Paris.

    The two ran regularly until 2022 when Cairess tripped over Sesemann’s dogs – a Spaniel and Vizsla cross called Kipchoge and a German Shorthaired Pointer called Haile, named after two legendary athletes – while on a run.

    “I didn’t run with Phil basically for ages because I was worried about the dogs,” he said. “But in the last four or five months, I have started running with them a bit more again.”

    They haven’t tried to trip him up – yet. “I like running with Phil. I’ll take the sacrifice of the dogs,” he says smiling.

    And if all goes well on Sunday, Cairess knows a bigger prize awaits: getting to potentially run in Paris with Kipchoge again – only this time it will be the one who already has two Olympic gold medals.

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