Mo Farah on postrace blues, fast food and running 130 miles a week

Runner's world interviews Mo Farah

After a race, how do you recover and combat postrace blues?

For a few days I’ll just make sure I’m around my family a lot. I don’t really get to put my feet up because my four kids don’t give me the chance! But I love being with them and if I start to think about a bad race and sulk, my wife, Tania, soon snaps me out of it and tells me to stop feeling sorry for myself.

Related: Mo Farah has his sights set on his fifth Great North Run win 

Do you prefer training in the morning or the afternoon?

Definitely the morning. I do double sessions most days and I always prefer the early ones, because I’m more of a morning person. By the afternoon I’m a bit over it and just want to chill.

What’s the best thing you’ve got in your attic?

My medals and trophies. There’s nowhere else to keep them. It means I don’t get to see them that often but it’s good to know they’re there if I want to go up and have a look at them.

How much of your running is on concrete and how much is on softer surfaces?

I do about 130 miles a week and I’d say about 80-90 per cent is done on softer surfaces like grass. I’ll do one run a week on concrete. It’s often the longest run of the week, but I mix it up and it might also be a tempo run or interval session sometimes. When you’re doing high mileage it’s important to protect your legs and concrete is just too hard to train on all the time without getting injured.

How long does a pair of trainers usually last you?

I’m lucky if I get a month out of mine! The guys at Nike always moan about how quickly I go through them.

How many pairs do you have on the go at one time?

One. I don’t like mixing up different shoes during training, I like to have one pair that I know fit me perfectly and that are right. I use the Pegasus because it can do everything.

Related: The best running shoes 2018 

How do you manage to train through Ramadan each year? Do you have an amended training schedule or do you just power on through?

I try to observe Ramadan as strictly as I can within the limits of what my training allows. Through my career my schedule has been different – some years I’ve had loads of races but the last couple of years we’ve been able to manage it so I didn’t have too much on, which means I can wind down the training for that month. If I do have a race, then, of course, unfortunately, I have to eat on the day and, more importantly, the day before, so I’m fuelled up and ready to go.

Who is your running idol?

Hicham El Guerrouj [Moroccan middle distance runner] without a doubt. When I got into running as a kid he was the guy breaking all the records and I loved him. I wanted to be him. If I had to choose British athletes, then it’s obvious – definitely Coe and Ovett.

Hicham El Guerrouj

What do you think about during the latter stages of a race (especially marathons), when the going gets tough?

Good question. And let me tell you: it doesn’t just get tough, it gets very tough! I think you could see that on my face at the London Marathon this year. I know people like Paula [Radcliffe] do things to zone out, like count to 100 over and over, but I don’t have any tricks like that. I just keep going over the training I’ve done in my head and telling myself how strong, how fit, how ready I am – and how everything I have done means I can handle the pain. Positive thinking, all the time.’

What advice would you give to young athletes that nobody gave to you?

Don’t be too hard on yourself – there’s always another race. I wasted days and weeks early in my career beating myself up over bad results. I couldn’t handle training hard and not seeing it pay off. It was only in the past few years that I’ve got better at seeing the big picture. I’ve learnt that if you’ve done your best in training and in the race, then that’s enough. Be proud of your efforts and move on.

What do your kids do that reminds you that, to them, you’re not a superstar athlete, you’re just ‘Dad’?

Everything! They give me no respect! Every time I walk in the house they’re crawling all over me, throwing things at me, shouting in my ear, chasing me round, messing up my clothes. And I love it – wouldn’t have it any other way.

When’s the last time you ate fast food and what was it?

Nando’s, a few weeks ago. Does that count as fast food? It can be quite healthy if you choose the right thing. But, to be honest, if I’m going to eat bad food, it’s normally sweet stuff. I love sugar, especially custard cream biscuits with a cup of tea. And if I was really being naughty, then sticky toffee pudding every time.

Newly retired Usain Bolt says he’s probably going to get fat in a couple of years. When you stop competing, are you going to do the same?

No chance! Firstly, it’s not setting a good example to my kids. Secondly, I love challenging myself, so I’ll always be up for trying new things and signing on for anything that sounds fun; and thirdly, I need to stay the same good-looking guy that my wife married!

What was your favourite childhood toy?

That would definitely have to be when I was growing up in Somalia [Mo moved to the UK at the age of eight]. We had these little wheel things that you had to push along the street with a stick and keep them going without them falling over. I spent hours playing with mine. When I went back recently I saw the kids still playing with them so I had a go again and I was rubbish! I was like “Oh man, I used to be so good at this!”

RW interviews Mo Farah

What film could you watch regularly for the rest of your life?

I’m a massive Denzel Washington fan so any of his movies, but I reckon the one I could watch most often is Training Day.

Finally, as one of Arsenal’s most famous fans, were you happy or sad to see Arsene Wenger leave?

He’s the only manager I’ve known as an Arsenal fan, so I was in the “Wenger stay” camp for sure. I was gutted when he left but, hopefully, the future is bright with the new guy. We’ll see.