Distance runner on his half-marathon hopes, social media criticism and why athletics runs in the family
Back home in Oregon, Mo Farah often disappears into what he calls his ‘man cave’ to relax after training. The room has a pool table and large-screen television for catching up with Premier League football games. It is also where he keeps his large collection of medals.
Nine global golds from the Olympics and IAAF World Championships are lined up along the wall in the order he won them in, illustrating where he has come from, how much he has achieved and, with a little space yet to fill, a hint of more to come. “For me, they act as motivation,” he explains.
Aged 33, he knows his gold medal-winning days are drawing to an end. “As you get older, it gets a little bit harder,” he admits. “I want to be able to finish at the top. When I can’t hold it any longer, you’ll start to see me doing other things.”
Does his inevitable decline worry him? “No, because I know what goes up must come down.”
Until then, there are medals to be won in the IAAF World Championships in London next year. He has unfinished business in the marathon as well, while his 2016 season still includes a certain half-marathon race this weekend.
Farah was speaking on the eve of the Great North Run and on Sunday he is aiming to win his third win in the world’s biggest half-marathon. “It’s been a long season but the crowd always get behind you here,” he says on the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields. “It’s pretty beautiful and during the last two or three miles people do really get behind you.”
He adds: “It’s nice to be able to make history. I’ve been telling myself after the Olympics I’ve only got to get through one more race. Hopefully I’ll do as well as I can and come away with a win. I’ll give it 110% but I know Dathan [Ritzenhein] has been going pretty well.”
His wife Tania is also running, which begs the question of whether Farah will hang around at the finish to wait for her. “I don’t know. It depends if she’s having a good or bad day or not!” he smiles.
Running is definitely a family thing in the Farah household and Farah reveals one of his twin daughters, Amani, has caught the running bug despite only being four years old. “I put her on the treadmill the other day,” he says. “I finished my run and she said, ‘Daddy, can I run?’ and she started jogging for more than 400 metres on the treadmill. So she loves running and understands about it,” he says, adding: “For me, as a parent, what’s most important to me is teaching my kids the principles of life.”
As Farah’s medals tally has increased, so have the amount of cynical comments relating to his performances. His press conferences at the Rio Olympics were peppered with spiky, doping-related questions and the days leading up to the Great North Run have seen a social media storm of negative tweets on an ‘AskFarah’ hashtag that was innocently initiated by Sky Sports.
“When you get to a high level as an athlete, this kind of thing happens but I did have some great messages (on social media) with people behind me. As an athlete I have to concentrate on my running and do what I can,” Farah says.
Tania and daughter Rihanna were at one of the Rio press conferences as well as Farah fended off tough questions. “That’s what really gets me upset because as a father I don’t want to my kids to see anything bad,” he says. “As a parent it’s not a nice thing but it’s what comes with what I do and it’s reality.
“Anyone who ever does something, it comes with some not so nice things. I have to deal with it and love what I do. I enjoy winning medals for my country and standing on the podium and when I do that it makes everything worthwhile.”
If ever he needs a reminder, he pops into his man cave, switches on the TV, chalks up his pool cue and glances at the metalware on the wall.