The double Olympic gold medalist will have his hands full against a loaded field of superstars.
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NEW YORK — Speaking to double Olympic champion Mo Farah, one senses the 30-year-old from Great Britain is a learning man, one who soaks up information and knowledge like a sponge. It was only fitting that Farah met with members of the media at a public school prior to Sunday’s running of the NYC Half, where he seeks to earn his second title in four years.
“I’m looking forward to the race. Hopefully it should be a very exciting race,” said Farah, sporting a Nike jacket with a MoBot logo and a long goatee.
After answering students questions and jogging a handful of laps around a large room in celebration of the New York Road Runners’ Mighty Milers program, Farah sat down and dove right into his biggest tasks at hand: the NYC Half, and next month’s Virgin Money London Marathon, less than five weeks away.
On Sunday, Farah looks to become the second man in race history to earn two NYC Half titles. In 2011—racing in his debut half-marathon—Farah surged on the West Side Highway, crossing the line first in 1:00:23 ahead of former TCS New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam.
Three years later, the father of three hopes for much of the same, looking to claim the $20,000 top prize once again. Sunday will be a chance for Farah to gauge his fitness, hoping to gain any insight as to what may need sharpening before he toes the line in London.
“I want to be able to test myself, see where I am, and find out if there is anything that needs a little trigging, small things that we can change,” said Farah, who is coached by Alberto Salazar. “Then we will change it leading up to London.”
Spending the last two months training in Kenya, Farah has prepared for all possible scenarios in the marathon. Routinely putting in well over 100 miles a week and looking noticeably lean, the three-time World Champion said he feels confident looking ahead.
“Training has been going pretty well. Just been hard, hasn’t been easy,” he said, noting a bump in mileage and intensity. “But things have gone very well. I’m here on the weekend to test myself doing the half.”
A student of the sport, Farah said much of what he has been working on lately came from last year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, where he ran slightly less than halfway before dropping out as expected. The three biggest points of emphasis are hydration, pace, and the course.
“The most [important] thing I remember is missing my drinks. That was bad, trying to pick up the drink or you’re on one side [of the road] and the drink station is on the other side. That was hard and something I have been practicing in training,” he said.
Farah added that last year he wasn’t prepared for the prolonged hard pace, another focal point that’s been of emphasis this training cycle.
Though he has put his past knowledge to good use, Farah is hesitant to predict what he is capable of both here on Sunday and in London.
Interestingly, Farah stressed that he doesn’t feel any added pressure given the fact that he is racing his marathon debut in London, the same city where he won Olympic gold medals at 5000m and 10,000m in 2012 and a place he can’t walk the streets without being recognized. Knowing that a debut marathon can be a mixed bag—rewarding or a tough pill to swallow—Farah is going in with a positive yet open mind.
“I’ve never run a marathon. When you’ve never run a marathon before and you don’t know what it’s like, I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s just testing myself. Am I going to be [as] good at marathons as I was good at track? I guess we’re going to find out.”
He is well aware of the notorious marathon wall, though isn’t daunted by it.
“That wall does exist, every athlete has been there. But some of the guys I’ve been talking to said if you’ve done the right training, you manage to just pass that wall,” he said. “At some point you will feel it, but I don’t know when I’m going to feel it. We’ll find out.”
When asked what message he’d like to convey to all the elementary school runners in attendance today, Farah said to “be patient, enjoy it, and work hard for it.” It represents success, something Farah is very familiar with and hopes to achieve in New York and London.