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MO Farah will finally take to the start line at the Virgin London Marathon today still bursting with enthusiasm for the race.

Much of the talk in the build-up has been of murky motives and money-grabbing, with critics of his plan to run only to halfway, as practice for making his full 26.2 mile debut next year, accusing him of cashing in on his status as double Olympic champion and going against the spirit of the mass-participation event.

For Farah, though, the race brings back plenty of happy memories.

The 30-year-old won the mini-marathon event three times in a row between 1998 and 2000 as a west London schoolboy, the early steps on the road to becoming a 5,000 and 10,000 metres great.

Asked what it would mean to him to actually be on the start line of the senior race, he said: "It's a big one, because when I won the first one (mini marathon) I saw myself on TV and was like, 'I'm on TV, I'm on TV!' I got really excited about it.

"Being able to step up to the marathon and run with the guys who are actually going to finish the race is amazing.

"The London Marathon is one of the biggest marathons in the world and the team put on a great show so it's very exciting."

Farah has stressed the chance to gain experience, of the atmosphere and the course, ahead of his full marathon debut next year was a "no-brainer and admitted he has been hurt by the suggestions his reasons for competing might be financial.

And he knows he will not get any special treatment.

"I don't get better treatment that anyone else, the same breakfast and everything," added the British half-marathon record holder, who ran 60.59 minutes in New Orleans in February.

"My aim is to stay in front, feel good and get through it."

The exact point on the course where Farah will come to a halt, shortly after Tower Bridge, remains a mystery, but he has promised there is no chance at all of him going all the way to The Mall.

It should be an exciting fight between those who do, though, including world record holder Patrick Makau and fellow Kenyan and defending champion Wilson Kipsang, the second fastest man in history. The world record mark of 2hrs 3mins 38secs is expected to come under threat.

Scott Overall leads the British challenge, while in the women's race Amy Whitehead will be looking to secure selection for August's World Championships in Moscow.

In the wheelchair races, four-time London 2012 gold medallist David Weir can claim a record seventh title, eclipsing Tanni Grey-Thompson, with victory.

Shelly Woods is the defending champion in the women's race.

This year's event will also feature the inaugural IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletics Marathon World Cup, with Paralympic 200m champion Richard Whitehead the headline act.

The double above-the-knee amputee, who started out with the marathon before taking to the 200m because there was no marathon in his T42 class at the Paralympics.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 21, 2013
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