British record-holder set to take on stellar field on October 2 but says it is unlikely to be his retirement appearance
Mo Farah will race in The Big Half on September 4 ahead of a tilt at the TCS London Marathon on October 2. Aged 39 and a decade after winning the 5000m and 10,000m double at the London Olympics, he plans to prepare for the challenge in Font Romeu in coming weeks. Will these be his last-ever races? Probably not. “I’ll never stop running,” he says. “Whatever I do, I’ll always be a runner.”
Speaking to the media on Wednesday (July 6), Farah ruled out a return to the track this summer at the European Championships in Munich in August, for example. His days of being competitive in that arena, he admits, are behind him.
Yet on the roads he still harbours ambitions of challenging in the marathon. Although when he sees the list of elite entries for the October 2 race, he will surely recognise his chances of winning are slim. They are set to be announced on Thursday with an estimated 10 men with PBs inside 2:05, whereas Farah’s British record of 2:05:11 was set five years ago when winning in Chicago.
“Everyone knows how much I love the London Marathon so I’m really excited to be coming back in 2022,” said Farah. “It does seem a long time ago since I last took part in the full race in 2019 (he was a pacemaker in 2020) and I can’t wait to get back out there again, test myself against the best marathon runners in the world and enjoy that buzz and amazing atmosphere London creates on marathon day.
“I am focused on getting a good training block in between now and then. The Big Half will be a great way to test my condition and see how my training has been progressing before the marathon comes around on October 2.”
After winning 10 global track titles from 2011 to 2017, Farah’s recent form has been more shaky as age is seemingly taking its toll. In 2021 he finished behind Marc Scott in the Olympic 10,000m trials in Birmingham and in a subsequent exhibition race in Manchester a few weeks later he failed to beat the qualifying time for Tokyo.
This summer began with a surprise defeat to Ellis Cross in the Vitality London 10,000 on the roads. Since then his only sporting appearance has been in Soccer Aid at the London Stadium last month.
He has not ruled out continuing to race after London this autumn and admits it is very hard to know when to stop competitive racing. “It is hard, honestly,” he says, adding that his kids have urged him to continue to Paris 2024. “The decision can only come from me, not my manager, not my wife or my kids. There will be a time, but I don’t even know myself yet.”
Farah likens his situation to another British Olympic winner from London 2012. “I’ve watched tennis and Andy Murray, the guy still has that fight in him but his body doesn’t allow him,” he says.
Unlike Murray, Farah has not undergone multiple hip surgeries, though. Stories also circulated last summer about great workouts that he was doing in Flagstaff in the run-up to the Olympic trials. Is he still enjoying any great sessions like this or have they petered away with age?
“I am doing good sessions but it’s not what I was doing when I was in fine tuning just before championships,” he says. “I’m still doing sessions normal people can’t do. You still feel like you’ve still got it. I speak to Gary (Lough, his coach) on a regular basis and he’s like ‘Yeah, that’s good, keep ticking the box each week’.”
Farah is realistic when it comes to challenging the best track runners, though. He would have liked to have gone to this month’s World Championships in Oregon, which is an area he was based at for some of his career, but knows it would not have ended well.
“It would have been nice and as an athlete you love to compete,” he says. “But again you’ve got to be realistic. You’ve done the World Champs, you’ve won medals, are you just going there just to make numbers or are you going there to actually be competitive? It’s not easy.
“You’ve got to be competitive enough to compete the last 1km in under 2:25. Am I capable of that? Anyone can run 27 minutes (for 10,000m) but can you run 26:40 or 26:35? I think that’s what it’s going to take to win the World Champs.”
His once formidable track speed is slowly deserting him and his heart right now lies moreso with racing on the roads in London. “It’s very important. When I do race in front of my hometown crowd in London, it makes a massive difference,” he says.
Farah has raced the London Marathon on three occasions. He finished eighth on his debut in 2014 (2:08:21), third in 2018 (2:06:21) and fifth in 2019 (2:05:39). The last British athlete to win the male elite race in London, meanwhile, remains Eamonn Martin back in 1993.
“It’s very emotional. There’s a lot of people out there who tuned in during 2012 and over the years have been massive fans of me. It’s only right to turn up there and see what I can do.
“The field is strong. I’m just trying to give myself the best chance, prepare well and get ready.”
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