Meet Ellis Cross, the club runner who bested Mo Farah

Here’s what you need to know about the running shop assistant who paid a 37-pound entry fee (45 US dollars) to beat four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah.

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by Justin Setterfield

On Monday 2 May, Ellis Cross sent shockwaves through the athletics community.

Under the splendour of Buckingham Palace, the 25-year-old club runner from Surbiton powered to victory over four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah at the Vitality London 10,000.

He ran a personal best time of 24 minutes and 28 seconds, besting the track legend by an impressive four seconds.

“I have beaten somebody who is like an idol,” Cross told BBC Sport in awe of his own achievement. “I can’t believe it.”

As a club runner, Cross had to pay 37 pounds (45 US dollars) for his entry fee, meaning he had a number on his bib rather than his name like other elite runners competing in the race.

It also meant waking up at 6am to take the train in to make the start of the line.

But that didn’t hold the runner back from taking the challenge straight to very best, including Team GB’s own leading light for the better part of a decade.

As the world continues to digest the magnitude of Cross’ achievement read on to learn more about him.

MORE: Mo Farah taking it 'race by race' after shock defeat to club runner Ellis Cross

1 – He had a prolific junior career

Cross has known for a little while how to keep up with the best.

As a junior he was a two-time English national cross-country winner in the U20s as well as a two-time BUCS 5,000m champion.

On the European circuit he came 15th in the U23 cross-country championships in 2016.

Thereafter, Cross signed a two-year professional country with Hoka One One but a struggle to shore up enough support prevented him before turning fully professional.

Nowadays Cross represents Aldershot, Farnham and District Athletics Club.

2- He works in running shop

Running is, unsurprisingly, always on Cross’ mind.

When the Vitality 10km race winner isn’t hitting the track he works as a retail assistant for 'Up & Running', a shop dedicated to his sport.

As well as working the shop floor, Cross also leads the shop’s weekly Social Run Group (SRG) every Tuesday.

After taking home the biggest prize of his athletics career to date, Cross was all praise for his employers for allowing him to balance training and work, and for those who join on him for the SRG sessions.

Club runner Ellis cross stands between elite athletes Farah and Aadan
Picture by Justin Setterfield

3 – He joked about beating Farah the day before

When Cross crossed the finish line in first place there was perhaps one person not surprised that the amateur had bested the Olympic legend.

And that is Cross’ colleague Millie Grice.

In an interview with BBC breakfast the runner said he had speculated the day before that he might come out on top:

“I was joking with a colleague saying [that I would win].

"I was actually working on Sunday – so I worked the day before the race, did a full day. I was just like “Oh I’m racing Mo Farah tomorrow, who knows? What if I beat him?”

Grice admitted afterwards that she didn’t give Cross’ hypothetical line of questioning much thought at the time, but it immediately sprang to her attention when she saw what he had achieved.

Farah went stratospheric when he clinched his first Olympic double at London 2012
Picture by 2012 Getty Images

4 - He has the approval of the four-time Olympic champ

Getting beaten on your home turf in front of a crowd in a race you’ve previously won seven times would test even the most gracious of people.

But Team GB’s most successful track athlete in history Mo Farah had nothing but praise for Cross.

“It must have been 20 years, at least since I was beaten by a club runner,” Farah told The Guardian after the race.

“But fair credit to him. He was very determined.

“Some athletes kind of look at you, but he didn’t fear anyone. I think that’s a good attitude to have.”


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