Mo Farah: 'I am one of the best in the world'
Sport spoke to Mo Farah to find out what happens when the dreaming stops, and real life begins again…
Whatever challenge Mo Farah decides to tackle next, wherever he decides the future lies for his growing family, and whenever he decides to reveal the full story of the twin brother he kept under wraps for so long, London 2012 will always be the time that changed his life forever.
“What a year!” he exclaims, and shakes his head before repeating a phrase that has been used so often by British Olympians in 2012, they should have it trademarked. “It’s never going to be the same again.”
Of all London’s Olympic champions, that statement rings most true for Farah, after he became the first British male ever to win a global title over 10,000m.
That was merely the warm-up, though, for the Olympic 5,000m title followed a week later, granting Farah entry into a select group of athletic greats who have achieved the gruelling long-distance double. Then, less than a fortnight after Farah’s triumph on the track, came another double – the arrival of his twin daughters, Aisha and Amani. If he was in any doubt before, they are two constant reminders that the 29-year-old’s life will indeed never be the same again.
Not that he isn’t trying to get back to some semblance of normality. With winter training already under way in Portland, Oregon, alongside his coach and former marathon superstar Alberto Salazar, Farah is taking the first tentative steps into a potentially tricky period of his career. In winning double Olympic gold, Farah answered a question that had been asked of him ever since he became European junior 5,000m champion in 2001.
That first major title showed he had the potential to rule Europe on the senior stage, but how would this talented youngster fare against the world’s best? And, specifically, how would he fare against the east Africans who had ruled long- distance racing for so long?
Pretty well, as it turns out. Now, the question is surely one of motivation. For years, Farah has worked to prove the Kenyans and Ethiopians can be beaten. So, now that he’s done exactly that, how will it affect his mental approach to training and racing?
He muses for a few seconds. “I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet, to be honest,” he begins. “I’m just getting back into training, really. But I’m sure when it all starts ramping up again ahead of the World Championships next year, I’ll be thinking about it more. I guess as an athlete you want to be able to win medals and run good times in your career, though, and that will always be my aim – to continue doing that. That’s all the motivation I need.”
Knowing that he is the best in the world must have some effect on his mindset, though. His chest will surely puff out a little further, his head will automatically lift a degree higher and that last, painful rep will be pushed out with just a bit more vigour than before.
“I am one of the best in the world,” Farah agrees, without any semblance of arrogance. “But nothing’s changed because of that.
You just have to kind of forget about it while still using the confidence it has given you – and I’m really confident at the moment – to start all over again.
“You can’t always be thinking ‘I did this‘ or ‘I did that’. It’s in the past now. So you just have to get on with your training and look forwards.”
Athletics observers have talked of Farah stepping up to the marathon distance, keen to see how his tactical nous and speed translates on to the road. With just one half-marathon to his name – New York, in an impressive debut time of 60:23 – however, Farah’s capability over 26.2 miles is uncertain. For the man himself, it remains a goal.
“I remember watching the London Marathon on TV as a kid and it being brilliant,“ he recalls. “It’s something that I see myself doing one day. It’s at home, you know? One of the biggest marathons in the world and it’s right on my doorstep, so it’s another chance to win something on home soil. It would be nice to become one of the marathon greats like Haile Gebrselassie. But, you know, that’s a long way away yet. When I do it, I want to do it properly.”
Farah and his coach rule out the possibility of running the marathon at next year’s World Championships in Moscow, preferring instead to concentrate on defending his world 5,000m title and trying to add the 10,000m to that. Salazar insists that “once you move up [to the marathon], it’s not that you can’t come back down, but you probably won’t improve any more”. For him, it’s a case of squeezing as much out of Farah’s ability on the track as he can before changing the game.
The landscape has shifted dramatically in all other areas of his life, but Farah can at least rely on one place where it will, for now, remain consistent. The track is where the double gold-medallist experienced two life-changing moments, but it’s also where he can pretend nothing has changed. He’s still just a runner trying to beat the clock – albeit now one with four women waiting for him at home, rather than two.
Sarah Shephard @sarahsportmag