Olympic and world track champion tells the press he’ll be satisfied with a UK record on Sunday

Mo Farah arrived at his big pre-race press conference in London on Tuesday armed with a healthy respect for the marathon distance and the modest goal of breaking the UK record. He also brought his sense of humour with him as he wise-cracked his way through a gruelling round of interviews.

There were no over-the-top world record predictions. Neither was there much focus on him becoming the first British man to win the London Marathon since Eamonn Martin in 1993.

Instead, he coolly deflected most of the questions before disappearing into the Tower Bridge area of the city to gather his thoughts over the next few days before tackling 26.2 miles for the first time.

“The British record is my main target,” he said, referring to Steve Jones’ 1985 mark of 2:07:13. “Kenenisa Bekele’s win in his marathon debut in Paris last weekend gives me good confidence,” he added. “If Bekele can do it, then why can’t I? Although this race is completely different to Paris. London is by far the toughest field.”

In one of many jokes, Farah thanked Dave Bedford for helping to put together “such an easy field” for him in his marathon debut. His comments helped break the ice of a press conference that began in slightly tense fashion, such is the huge air of anticipation surrounding Farah’s appearance in the race this year.

During the opening volley of questions, Farah’s body language suggested he was slightly in awe of the large media gathering. It was not the confident, double Olympic and world champion we are used to, but as the session unfolded his familiar smile widened and he grew more relaxed and chatty.

When quizzed about his recent fall and defeat to Geoffrey Mutai in the NYC Half, for example, Farah offered another quip when he said: “My coach, Alberto Salazar, has been there and done it and he said to me ‘get up, Mo. Stop faking it’.”

More seriously, though, he added: “After New York, I’m fine, I’m good. I fell early on and once you fall down it’s hard, mentally and physically. I gave it 110% and during last four miles I was feeling it and could see stars.”

He continued: “The fall was more of a worry than collapsing afterwards. I just had a few scratches on my hip and back but mainly I was fine.”

Farah also talked about suffering a few “hiccups” in training during the build-up, but later played it down by saying they were just routine problems that every athlete has.

He’ll certainly need to be at his best because on Sunday he faces Kenya’s marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang, Uganda’s world and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, Ethiopia’s reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, and Kenya’s London Marathon course record-holder Emmanuel Mutai.

>> More in the April 10 issue of Athletics Weekly