Ten-time global track champion enjoys the idea of coaching the next generation of British distance runners
After waving his final goodbyes to competitive action at the Great North Run, Mo Farah has planned to take a breath. He will spend some time with his family as he weighs up what his next steps might be.
Unlike some of athletics’ greats, the 10-time global gold medallist doesn’t appear to want to become disconnected from his sport. Quite the opposite, in fact.
As he spoke with AW in the run-up to the penultimate road race of his career, The Big Half, the 40-year-old was still weighing up his options.
He admitted to being inspired by events at the World Championships in Budapest, but he has left sizeable shoes to fill. While Eilish McColgan and Jess Warner-Judd can regularly be found in the showpiece 5000m and 10,000m events, Britain has yet to unearth a male athlete who could potentially fill the gaping hole.
Many believed Alex Yee could be that successor, but it’s difficult to see the Olympic star ever being fully prised away from triathlon. Perhaps that is where Farah could be best served – in helping to nurture the next generation.
A topic of conversation in Budapest was a failure to make the most of the former champions and the four-time Olympic gold medallist, who has taken his coaching qualifications, certainly wants to get involved.
Just as he was inspired into the sport by the likes of his old PE teacher Alan Watkinson, could he play a part in attracting new names to athletics? There is certainly a font of knowledge and experience to be accessed.
“Young athletes inspire me,” he says. “When I was watching the British team in Budapest there were a lot of athletes that inspired me to stay in the sport and get involved in it more than ever.
“You see how far they’ve come, what they’re missing and what changes they need to become a better athlete and achieve more medals.
“I’d still loved to get involved with the sport and being able to give back to the community and younger kids. I was inspired by somebody and it’s how we inspire them.
“First, I’ll take a bit of a break but I’ve got the right people behind me and the correct support. We’ll make some decisions about what I want to do. As you know, though, I’m not somebody to sit still and I want to find something to do, whatever that challenge will be.”
As we reported in the June issue of AW, this has been a long goodbye for Farah. It has allowed him time to prepare and to reflect. His decision to round off his career at the Great North Run, an event he dominated, was no surprise.
In the September issue of AW magazine we looked at some of Farah’s greatest performances and there are no prizes for guessing which the man himself would place at the top.
“Nothing will compare to London 2012 [winning 5000m and 10,000m gold]. That’s the moment when my life, passion and belief changed,” he says. “You win those medals and you then want to retain them and fight. From that moment when I crossed the line I was thinking, where’s the next Olympics? Then to do it at Rio 2016 it was even better.”
Remove the track from the equation, however, and Farah’s thoughts immediately turn to Tyneside for a race in which he came second. The 2013 edition of the Great North Run allowed him to tackle two all-time greats in Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie. It was the former who beat Farah in a thrilling sprint finish.
“If you put the World Championships and the Olympics to one side and looked at a road race then it’s probably the Great North Run where I raced against Haile and Kenenisa,” said Farah.
“You don’t often get to see three peak athletes like that together in one race. I grew up idolising them, watching them win medals and thinking ‘how can I do that?’
“The Great North Run has always meant a lot. I’ve taken part over so many years in that race. As soon as you finished the Olympics or World Championships, it was always the race that would be my final one of the season.
“I was able to win six times. In 2013, it was one of the best fields that Brendan Foster put together. It was Haile when he was coming off his peak – a bit like I am now! That was one of the best fields that I went up against at the Great North Run.”
There are he insists, no regrets, though he does admit: “I’d have loved to have cracked the marathon. Running 2:05 is not bad.”
Now is about looking forward rather than back.
“It’s about still being able to be involved in the sport and particularly in athletics,” adds Farah. The sport would do well to make good use of him.
» This article first appeared in the September issue of AW magazine: Subscribe to AW today and get your first three months for just £24.99 here