Mo-ving on to newer heights

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By Anjali Jacob

Sir Mohammed Farah is often known as Britain’s most successful distance runner, in addition to being the most decorated athlete in the history of British athletics. He has four Olympic Gold medals under his belt, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to athletics.

In August last year, Sir Mo announced his retirement from track racing and decided to focus on marathons. He arrived in Doha in January this year for the Ooredoo Doha Marathon 2018, and talks about distance running and his life.

Sir Mo is a British national who moved to the UK, from his birthplace in Somalia, when he was only eight years old. Right from the start, he took an interest in sports and participated in running during his Physical Education (PE) classes. Although his passion at the time was football and he dreamt of playing for Arsenal FC one day, his coach at the time, Alan Watkinson, saw potential in him, and encouraged him to focus on running. “My PE teacher thought I was pretty good at running, and sort of convinced me to stick to it, and here I am today,” says Sir Mo.

He announced his shift back to the UK from his earlier residence in Oregon, USA, in September 2017. He also announced a split with his former coach Alberto Salazar and is now training under Gary Lough, who has coached and is married to Paula Radcliffe. He says the move to London was so that he could spend more time with his family and friends.

Sir Mo describes his training process to be thorough but not excessive.

“I always make sure that I’m not over exerting my body, so I always plan out in advance which competitions I want to participate in and then I train accordingly. Every year there are multiple events and competitions, so if I can’t make it to one, this year, I will definitely make up for it the next year. But you have to take care of your body.”

Support of family and fans makes all the difference to Sir Mo and helps keep his spirits up especially during the race when energy levels run low. He also encourages others to “do what you love, and love what you do”.

Sir Mo hopes to compete in the London Marathon in April 2018, for which he is focusing at present. Training under Lough is a new experience for him, who describes him as “very hands-on and makes me go the extra mile, which can be tiring at times, but it’s what gets results”. Sir Mo believes that getting to know your coach and having a good work flow with them can make all the difference in terms of training and performance.

Sir Mo grew up watching the Olympics and it was one of his dreams to win an Olympic Gold. He looked up to many athletes, including Radcliffe, and was humbled when he finally won his first Olympic Gold in 2012 in London. Sir Mo is known to celebrate his victories by doing a little dance move called the ‘Mobot’, which has become a signature of his identity. He has also been involved in charity work in East Africa and was appointed the ambassador of Marathon Kids.

He says: “I hope I can help kids to be more active and involved in running or any sport for that matter. I also have four kids of my own, so it’s a good influence for them as well.”

Sir Mo is a fan of the Middle East and is awed by the rich culture, cuisine and people of Qatar. He appreciates the level of importance that Qatar gives to sports, especially the Aspire Academy.

“I think it’s brilliant that they started an institution which helps athletes train and educate themselves, and it is funded by the government. It really shows how valued sport is over here, and I love to be a part of that anytime,” concludes Sir Mo, who hopes to visit Qatar again in the future, during the 2019 World Championships.