Mo Farah speaks marathon training, sacrifices and his lasting legacy
He’s the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history, and Mo Farah aimed to make history once again – when he took on world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in the London Marathon. But Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon time in history to win a record fourth London title, with Farah losing by three minutes and placing fifth on Sunday.
However, the fact that the 36-year-old track athlete made the daring shift to marathon running is a feat on its own; showing Farah’s versatility, grit and determination when it comes to the sport. MH caught up with the athlete on the sacrifices he’s made, his shift towards marathon training and his lasting legacy.
Farah bagged gold for the 5000m and 10000m track events at the Olympics Games in both 2012 and 2016. And like any race, it was the fine margins that saw him win. “As an athlete it is always a tiny margin, in terms of winning and maybe even coming fourth,” he says.
“Over the years you are always searching for those small increments in terms of what you can improve. And you could say, why wouldn’t I be at sea level with my kids and training there? But I know I have to train at altitude, I have to train at 10 000 ft above sea level – it makes a big difference for me as an athlete.”
And race day gains have come with some big sacrifices for the father of four. “There are many things that I do miss, you know, like waking up in the morning with my son and he is just playing around with you, jumping on you,” he says.
“But I know in order for me to achieve my goals that I can’t be at home. And that’s why sometimes you do think about it, particularly when they’re ill or something’s going on at home… Ultimately it drives me more to train harder, to make it worth [while].”
And that’s why routine is key. With a typical day in Ethiopia, where Farah trains, seeing him wake up at 7am and get out the house 15 minutes later for breakfast. “[I] eat a bit of porridge a bit of toast, coffee. I come back get changed, leave the house at 8:30 and jog towards the grass to meet my training partners; together we would do between [16 and 20 kilometres] in the morning, followed by a bit of stretching.”
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But it doesn’t stop there. Farah naps and has a light lunch before weight training in the evening. “I’d jog at around about 5 o’clock and then workout in the gym: some core, some weights.
“That’s an average day, unless we are doing a long run on a Sunday where we wake up ridiculously early: around 5 o’clock,” with Farah grabbing coffee at a local hut before running for hours on end.
Marathon training is a new world for Farah, which is a lot different to track training, he says. “I know I wasn’t doing as much miles as I am doing now for the marathon. And secondly in terms of intervals or longer stuff, I was doing more of tracks and repeats if that makes sense.”
“For example we would be on the track a couple of times a week where you specifically are doing a session, from 10k to 5k, in the marathon it’s much longer, you are doing much longer runs. You are doing more miles and you are doing more intervals, so it is totally different.”
Although winning on Sunday on the London streets Farah grew up on would’ve have been nice, it’s not the end of the world, he says. “I am very much a positive person, I don’t like to make things complicated, I will find a way to not make it complicated. If it fails, then it’s not your day, you move on. It’s not the end of the world.”
For now, there’s speculation that Farah may return to track , with the 10 000m World Championships later this year. But either way, Farah has had his sponsors to fall back on, with Nike backing him from the beginning.
“I think the first time running for England was a massive thing for me in terms of just going, I’m running for England, and then against Scotland, Wales, Ireland, that was the international schools. From there, running for Great Britain as a junior was another big thing,” he says. “And then one of those things you always talk about is when am I going to make it into this senior rank, can I make it? I made it in cross country first of all and then from there it felt like [I was] when the I got lottery funding, some support which [is] part of the UK lottery system.
“From there, having sponsors like Nike you kind of thought, yeah I am good, maybe I can do something in this sport.” Farah now runs in Nike’s newest ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, which Runner’s World has termed ‘the fastest shoe you can buy’.
A shoe Farah was involved in creating. “During the development we did a lot of tests on the treadmill and other stuff, and at first, when you tried it, it felt like oh wow. They were very well cushioned, kind of throwing you on your toes, making you go forward without actually trying. Over time Nike and the team have worked to improve the shoe in lots of different ways. They got different athletes involved, in terms of working out what they need to improve,” he says.
From training, to gold medals, the running god has plenty to be proud of. So how would he describe his legacy? “Personally – four kids, good beautiful kids, happy family and just chilled and happy.”