The British long-distance ace is hard to beat at any distance.
By David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
GATESHEAD, ENGLAND (17-Sep) — Spreading his arms wide as he broke the tape here today at the two-mile event at the Great North City Games, Mo Farah heaved a sigh of relief. Nine long months of hard training and competition were finally over.
“It was all right,” Farah said immediately after his comfortable eight minute and 37.72-second victory. “Break now.”
But during those nine months, Farah compiled the kind of record which even great athletes are unable to do over an entire career. In 16 races on all four surfaces –cross country, indoor track, track and road– Farah finished first in all but three of them, establishing himself as the world’s #1 distance runner below the marathon distance. His accomplishments this year include both medals (gold, European Indoor 3000m and World Championships 5000m, and silver, World Championships 10,000m), and fast times (European record at 10,000m, 26:46.57; British Records at 5000m indoors, 13:10.60, and outdoors, 12:53.11). He has now become a bona fide celebrity here.
“I’ve just had a lot of people coming up to me, saying ‘well done,'” Farah told Race Results Weekly in an interview yesterday. “It’s just amazing support.”
Farah’s stature has risen so high that he was even honored recently before an Arsenal football match at Emirates Stadium. Farah has been a big Arsenal supporter since his childhood in London.
“What was so special, was going to Emirates (Stadium) and getting introduced to the crowd right before the game and just getting a massive cheer from the Arsenal fans,” Farah said with just a touch of disbelief. “I’m a huge Arsenal fan.”
Farah’s versatility makes him a very unusual athlete. He’s hard to beat on any surface, and under coach Alberto Salazar, he’s put himself in a wide range of events this year, all with great success. He won the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country last January on a snow-covered course, then raced four consecutive indoor races, winning all but one. Fifteen days after winning the European Indoor 3000m title in Paris last March, he surprised observers by jumping into the NYC Half-Marathon with training partner Galen Rupp. He won in 1:00:23, the fastest time ever by a Briton, although ineligible for a record because of the point-to-point and slightly downhill course.
“You know, as an athlete it’s very exciting when you’re changing events,” Farah explained. “New York Half-Marathon was really awesome for me; I really enjoyed that. The reason why, I’ve never competed in one before, and I ended up winning and running a decent time. And then coming back indoors, I quite like indoors. You’ve got to do your speed. Then, cross country in the winter, it’s a bit cold and snowy, but you have to do the work. You know, it’s exciting. I really like competing in different events.”
Farah said that he will return to Portland, Ore., where he currently makes his home and trains with USA 10,000m record holder Galen Rupp, and take a long break before resuming his training. He has not allowed his mind to stray too far into next year when he will be one of the big stars of the London 2012 Olympics. Farah said that it’s counterproductive to look too far ahead.
“I haven’t thought that far ahead to be honest with you,” he said when asked to imagine himself in an Olympic final next summer. “We’re just taking it one race at a time. As an athlete, what you mainly have to do is just keep your feet on the ground and stay injury-free, and just focus on one year at a time. I think this year is done now. Then, we’ll have a chat with my coach back in the U.S. and we’ll discuss and plan towards 2012.”
Instead of running here in Gateshead, Farah could have run in the Samsung Diamond League 5000m final in Brussels last night. He was the event’s points-leader, and had he won the race he would have collected USD 50,000 in prize money, including the USD 40,000 given to the Diamond Race winner. But he and coach Salazar felt that taking a victory lap here was the better choice after such a hard season.
“I’m leading the Diamond points, so if I would have won it would have been good,” Farah said yesterday. “But, sometimes you can get carried away too much. As an athlete, you always want to win and be everywhere, but sometimes you have to learn to just say “no,” and just do one race, call it a day. I am tired. I definitely would have gone into that race tired. I wanted to be 100 percent. So, I came here and just competed two miles, the shorter distance, which is going to be good.”
Farah said yesterday that he would not return to Britain for the year-end holidays because he needed to remain focused on his training. Nonetheless, he’s enjoyed his time back in England with his wife Tania and her daughter, Rhianna, however brief.
“It feels good to be back home in London where I grew up,” he said. “It’s great to be with your family and friends, very exciting.”
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The United States beat Great Britain 7-3 in the ten-event team competition of the Great North City Games. Each team scored one point for an event victory. The event winners were (in the order they were contested): W PV, Becky Holliday, USA, 4.27m; M Mile, Bernard Lagat, USA, 4:06.01; W 100mH, Dawn Harper, USA, 12.73; W Mile, Hannah England, GBR, 4:39.49; M LJ, Jeremy Hicks, USA, 7.84m; M 2 Mile, Mo Farah, GBR, 8:37.72; M 100m, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, GBR, 10.27; W 150m, Carmelita Jeter, USA, 16.50; M 150m, Walter Dix, USA, 14.65; M 110mH, Jason Richrdson, USA, 13.26.
PHOTO: Mo Farah celebrates after winning the two-mile event at the 2011 Great North City Games in Gateshead, England (photo by Joe Battaglia, UniversalSports.com; used with permission)
NOTE: This is Mo Farah’s complete racing record for 2011 from the Race Results Weekly Athlete Performance Database:
(1) Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country 8 km 08-Jan 25:41
(2) New Balance Indoor Grand Prix 3000m 05-Feb 7:35.81
(1) Aviva Grand Prix 5000m 19-Feb 13:10.60 NR
(1) European Indoor Championships Prelim 3000m 04-Mar 8:02.36
(1) European Indoor Championships Final 3000m 05-Mar 7:53.00 (Gold Medal)
(1) NYC Half-Marathon 21.1 km 20-Mar 1:00:23 DB
(1) Bupa Run London 10-K (NC) 10 km 30-May 29:15
(1) Prefontain Classic 10,000m 03-Jun 26:46.57 NR/ER (#2 2011)
(1) Aviva Birmimgham Grand Prix 5000m 10-Jul 13:06.14
(1) Herculis Meeting 5000m 22-Jul 12:53.11 NR/MR (#1 2011)
(1) Aviva UK Trials & Championships 5000m 31-Jul 14:00.72
(1) Aviva London Grand Prix 3000m 05-Aug 7:40.15
(2) IAAF World Championships Final 10,000m 28-Aug 27:14.07 (Silver Medal)
(2) IAAF World Championships Prelim 5000m 01-Sep 13:38.03
(1) IAAF World Championships Final 5000m 04-Sep 13:23.36 (Gold Medal)
(1) Great North City Games 2 mi. 17-Sep 8:38