What did we learn about Mo Farah from his autobiography? Quite a lot, actually
Having followed Mo Farah’s career since I started working full-time for AW in 1997, I thought I knew most things about him. His autobiography, though, is full of surprises and stories that have never been told before.
Mo’s full name is Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah from the Isaaq clan. Muktar was his father’s name, Jama his grandfather’s and Farah his great-grandfather’s name.
His first interval training session was as a small boy on the streets of Djibouti as he raced from house to house to watch his favourite cartoon – a French programme called Esteban. Why from house to house? It was because the TV sets often conked out due to power cuts.
The large scar on Farah’s right arm is due to an accident he had as a child when he fell over on to a cooker and hot oil scalded him.
Sam Haughian was Farah’s biggest role model during his youth. A former training partner and one of Britain’s brightest distance running talents, Haughian was killed in a road accident in 2004. “The runner I looked up to most was Sam,” says Farah. “He was a class apart, pure and simple. If there was one runner at my club that I wanted to be like, it was him.”
If it wasn’t for a conversation with Alan Storey, then Mo Farah would have joined the army. Farah was set to sign up, but Storey, who coached Farah until the athlete joined Alberto Salazar’s group, persuaded the youngster to study and train at St Mary’s College instead. Farah describes his relationship with Storey as that of a father and son.
When Farah smashed Dave Moorcroft’s British 5000m record in 2010, he ran the race against the wishes of his physiotherapist Neil Black and his manager Ricky Simms. They advised him to rest a troublesome Achilles tendon but he went to Zurich and ran 12:57.94.
The Achilles pain that Farah suffered from in 2010, he admits, is still with him today.
Salazar is a “genius” according to Farah, but he admits he avoids his coach like the plague on race day because he’s so jumpy and nervous. Farah’s other race day rituals include shaving his head and, unusually, having a coffee or an espresso only 20 minutes before he races for a caffeine fix to wake him up.
Mo Farah is a very private and, to be blunt, secretive soul. Major things in his life such as his twin brother and, initially, his move to be coached by Alberto Salazar, were only known to his very closest friends and family. Even his wedding to Tania was kept pretty quiet at the time.
When Farah stops running competitively, he has no desire to run for fun or fitness. Instead he’s looking forward to “putting on some weight” and playing Sunday League football.
» Twin Ambitions is published by Hodder & Stoughton and costs £20