Last summer Mo Farah became the first British man to win a world distance title, taking gold in the 5,000m, along with 10,000m silver. He tells RW why he's ready to top the podium in London.
Did you expect to win two medals at the Daegu World Champs last year?
I was confident I would do well. Leading up to it I did everything pretty much right. It was just one of those things that I had to get right on the day, and the 10,000m showed that you can be favourite and still not quite do it [Farah was overtaken in the home straight]. I learned a lot from the 10,000m and took that into the 5000m.
How significant was last year’s move to Oregon in getting you to your current level?
I’d been with one coach, Alan Storey, my whole career and I wanted to try something different. Nike runs a programme called the Oregon Project, headed up by legendary coach Alberto Salazar. His aim is to even up the playing field in distance running and break the dominance of the Africans. The facilities are unbelievable. Alan was great and got me to a really good place, but Alberto has just given me that bit extra.
So how has your training changed?
Alberto is known for his unusual training methods. I do a lot of running on a HydroWorx underwater treadmill, and on an AlterG anti- gravity treadmill – both to take the load off my joints. I also use a Cyrosauna, which is like an advanced ice bath. It cools your skin and redirects its blood supply to your muscles to help them repair quicker. Alberto is also really good at spotting small details such as flaws in technique.
Alberto blames himself for the Daegu 10,000m, saying he didn’t make you do enough sprint reps. Do you agree?
Alberto got me a silver medal in that race so I’m not complaining. He’s a great coach, but I can always improve. Maybe I should have done more sprint reps at the end of sessions, but I also failed to learn about the guy who beat me [Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan]. I didn’t know about his finishing kick or realise how good he was. Those are two things I will make sure don’t happen again. You have to learn from your mistakes.
What are the qualities that have lifted you to being the best in the world?
I would say my desire, my willingness to learn and the fact that I am prepared to make the sacrifices. When Alan Storey was coaching me I was coming sixth in races and only a second off a medal, which is very good, but it wasn’t enough for me. I’ve moved my family over to the States to try to get that one or two seconds faster.
Aside from the move to Oregon, how else have you showed dedication?
I now spend two to three months a year in Iten, in Kenya’s Rift Valley. It’s 730m above sea level, so if you can run there you can run anywhere. It’s where a lot of the Kenyan elites live and train [it produced 81 of the fastest 100 marathon runners in 2011]. There, I do nothing but train. I sleep in a basic room, wake, run, have breakfast, sleep, go to the gym, eat, sleep, run in the evening, eat, go to bed. There are no cafes, no TVs. It’s not easy leaving your family behind but to be the best that’s what you’ve got to do. I have to make every session count. In the end it becomes a normal thing and there aren’t any mornings when you wake up and think, ‘I don’t feel like going for a run today.’
And that’s in contrast to a time when you were a little less dedicated...
That one again! When I was about 18 I went out one night for a drink with Tom Bedford [London Marathon organiser David Bedford’s son]. On our way home I suggested a dare: jumping off Teddington Bridge into the Thames naked. So we stripped off and went for it. My coach didn’t find out for ages, but when he did he went mental. I’ve been good since then...
So RW is tipping you for the top spot on the podium this summer. What would constitute success in your eyes?
Medals of any colour are hard to get, so even bronze would be fantastic. But now I’ve won the World Championships, I see no reason why, if I’m fit, I can’t win gold. I’ll be aiming for the 10,000m as a priority, and if that goes well then I’ll consider the 5000m. I don’t have to make a decision on that until after the 10,000 though, so I have time.
And what about after London...what does the future hold for you?
By the time the next Olympics, in Rio, comes round, I’ll be 33 years old, and by then I think I might have moved from the track to the road. When you hit your 30s you stop getting faster, but you can run for longer. I want to run marathons – definitely London – and I think that would be a good age to make the change: not too young and not too old. I think I’m capable of running sub- 2:10, but I’m not sure how much quicker. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Check out Lucozade ambassador Mo Farah Go Faster Stronger For Longer at www.youtube/lucozade
Pick up the August issue of RW to find out why it could be fifth time lucky for Paula, and for a complete guide to the key moments of the upcoming Games, hand-picked by the RW team. Can't wait? Download your copy now from the Apple Newsstand.
The men's 10,000m final is on Saturday August 4th at 21:15. The men's 5,000m final is on Saturday August 11th at 19:30.