The athlete who grabbed the baton of British long-distance running after overtaking Mo Farah in the London Marathon was cheered by a school teacher who entered him in his first race.
Emile Cairess overtook Farah at 15 miles on his way to becoming the first European and third fastest British marathoner in history on his debut over the 26.2 mile distance.
Among the thousands who paraded through the streets and witnessed the Yorkshireman’s stunning achievement was Mike McCartney, who was the lead cross-country teacher at Bradford Grammar, a school which counts the award-winning triathletes among its pupils. olympic gold medalists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.
McCartney said it was a “huge excitement” to see Cairess “fly away” as she prepared to transform into The Mall and the 25-year-old now hopes to follow in the Brownlee brothers’ footsteps by being selected for next year’s Paris Olympics after reaching the qualifying time.
“We’ve seen Emile grow as a runner from a young age to where he is now,” he said. “He always had the talent. When he competed as a schoolboy he beat people, even if they were getting double the amount of training he did. We could see he was going places then and we are very proud of him.”
Cairess was first introduced to the sport by her mother, Alison, a school teacher who still runs regularly herself. This included grueling tumble runs and later cross country events across the Yorkshire countryside.
Cairess entered his first race while in middle school, joined the Bingley Harriers club and would combine athletics with football before focusing solely on running from the age of 16.
“Running the full marathon distance and experiencing the crowd was a dream,” Cairess said. “My mom has always been a runner, I started dating her when I was four. Then I started running at school, joined a club and it blew up. I also really liked playing soccer. It was hard to give up, but I was a much better runner than a footballer.”
‘I’ll be in my prime around 30’
Cairess became England Under 23 champion at 5,000m and followed that up with outstanding results as a senior, winning a silver medal at the European Cross Country Championships just before Christmas before breaking the European 10 mile record at the start of this year.
He split his training between spells at altitude in Kenya and a home run in Leeds with his friend Phil Sesemann, a young doctor who sprinted past Farah to finish eighth in Sunday’s London Marathon.
Sesemann brings his two dogs — named Haile and Kipchoge (after marathon legends Haile Gebrselassie and Eliud Kipchoge) — for his slower-paced runs, though these are avoided by Cairess after he once trips over one of them .
Kenyan runners have dominated the marathon globally and Cairess was inspired by training in Africa. “You immerse yourself in the culture,” she said.
“There are around 20 youngsters in England who focus on long-distance running on an intense and serious level. In Kenya there are maybe a thousand boys in a city.
“I feel like I’ll be at my peak around 30, so I wanted to learn the marathon before I was really physically ready.”
‘He is an athlete who engages’
Cairess, who was trained at St Mary’s University by Farah’s old coach Alan Storey, trailed Farah at half-distance but rode a perfectly judged contest to eventually finish two minutes and 19 seconds clear.
In 2012, when Farah was winning two Olympic golds at the London Olympics, Cairess was finishing 24th in the Mini London Marathon as a 14-year-old junior.
“I know it’s Mo Farah, but you have to treat everyone equally in the race,” Cairess said. “We’re just regular kids competing with each other. I beat Mo Farah, but Mo Farah didn’t win the Olympics.”
Farah believes Cairess has the talent and discipline to now shine on the world stage. “He’s an athlete who engages—he can keep going,” Farah said.
And his advice? “You are still young and have a good future ahead of you, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. And don’t take things for granted. I took things for granted. Believe in yourself. He keeps working hard and keeps having fun.