Mo Farah: British Lion
August 25th, 2014
As a distance runner, you can train religiously, you can cross train with carefully crafted weight work and yoga, you can adhere to a specially assembled nutritional plan. In short, you can make yourself better. But as the most knowledgeable coaches will tell you, you can’t teach “heart.” That burning desire to succeed is almost never a learned skill – it is an innate quality that comes from within.
And anyone who has ever witnessed Britain’s Mo Farah in championship racing can attest, the man has the heart of a lion. Farah almost always enters championship competition with qualifying times that are far from world leaders. In 2012, when he dazzled the world and delighted his fellow countrymen with double Olympic golds in the 5000 and the 10,000 he was way down the line on the world leader list. How did he rank that year? In 2012, 37 different athletes ran the 10,000 faster than Farah’s season best time of 27:30.42 which he posted in winning his gold medal in London.. And in the 5K, his best 2012 mark ranked him as 11th on the world leader list. Mo Farah is not so much a record setter as he is a racer – a championship racer with an iron will who refuses to go down.
Yesterday in the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Diamond League Grand Prix, Mo Farah was both. Video here. In the final event of the afternoon and in a race that had been carefully assembled for a record attempt, one of the greatest global racers of all time had to become the record-seeker. His race was not against his fellow competitors, it was against the stopwatch. The target: the British 2-mile record of 8:13.51 set by Olympic 1500m champion Steve Ovett in 1978. As the two mile unfolded, Farah doggedly pursued the pacesetter. But something was wrong: as Farah passed the mile in 4:07 his gait lacked that certain snap; he looked lethargic. “I was a bit tired going into it,” the multi-decorated distance runner confessed. “But I had to push myself to get that win.” [continued below]
The raucous partisan capacity crowd brought the best out of the British lion. “Once I got into it, I got better and better. I was looking at the clock thinking ‘I can do it’.” Farah – competing in his first track event on British soil in over a year – was up to the task. The Olympic, world and now European double gold medalist began to crank it up as he covered each remaining lap more quickly. Farah closed the show with a final 800 in 1:56 – 4:00 for the final mile – to stop the watch, his competition this day, at 8:07.85 to set a new British and European record. “It’s the first time I’ve competed in Britain since April at the London Marathon, so it was nice to give something back,” said Farah in the mixed zone. “The crowd kept pushing me along.” Unlike Asbel Kiprop who won the 62nd Emsley Carr Mile, Mo Farah did not inscribe his name in any ceremonial journal or receive a glittering plate. But what he did receive – the widespread respect and adulation of his of his countrymen – may well mean much more to this champion.
And finally, what is it with Mo Farah and the number “2”? At global championships he runs two events. When he wins a gold medal, he wins two. When he dominates global championships, it must be two – both the Olympics and the world championships. Heck, when he and his wife Tania have a baby, it’s a pair: twin daughters Aisha and Amani. Even yesterday, Farah didn’t run the Emsley Carr Mile, he ran the two mile on the day his two daughters turned two. And in winning Birmingham’s final event, the Brit didn’t just break one record, he broke two records. Mo Farah is staking his claim as the greatest British distance runner of all time. Yet there are those who speculate about the Rio Olympics: can Mohamed Farah continue to do this for two more years? I’ll give you my two cents: don’t give it a second thought.