By Jonathan Gault
April 17, 2018
LONDON — New year, new training group, new coach, new event, new goals.
A lot has changed since Mo Farah stepped off the track for the last time after winning a thrilling Diamond League 5,000-meter final eight months ago in Zurich.
One thing that hasn’t changed is his name — he still goes by Mo, even after asking to be called his full name, Mohamed, last year. Another constant is his disposition — relentlessly sunny, to match the gorgeous English weather (not a typo) this afternoon — even though the challenge awaiting him in Sunday’s 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon is the greatest of his professional career. Double Olympic gold with the weight of a nation on his shoulders? Difficult, but Farah was the clear favorite in each race at London 2012. Defeating a loaded men’s elite field that includes Kenenisa Bekele (2:03:03 pb), Guye Adola (2:03:46 pb) and the greatest marathoner to ever walk the earth in Eliud Kipchoge? Given Farah’s background as a track specialist, that would be the most impressive single victory of his career, and it would not be particularly close.
Farah arrived in front of the press on Tuesday at the Tower Hotel on the shores of the River Thames fresh off the plane from Ethiopia, where he has spent the last three months holed up at altitude, breaking only to run (and win) the inaugural Big Half in London on March 4 where he defeated reigning London Marathon champ Daniel Wanjiru to win in 61:40. Apart from that, he’s been locked in on training, and though the Instagram updates have been frequent — in case you haven’t been following, Farah has launched a new training group, dubbed the “Mudane Team,” with Belgium’s Bashir Abdi and the U.S.’s Abdi Abdirahman — his internet connection has not always been great, with Farah explaining that he hasn’t been able to Skype or FaceTime with his family back in England.
Farah didn’t want to give away much on how his buildup has gone under new coach Gary Lough (Editor’s note: In case you didn’t know, Lough is also Paula Radcliffe’s husband), but it has been more marathon-focused than his preparation for his debut here four years ago (he finished 8th in 2:08:21) as he no longer has to worry about getting his speed back for a track season. Farah has hit upwards of 120 miles per week, not dramatically more than what he would run under former coach Alberto Salazar, but said that Lough has changed some things, specifically shortening the recovery during certain workouts.
“There’s things that he’s given me that I’ve never done before,” Farah said. “Gary’s a genius. I believe in him.”
Despite his advancing age (he turned 35 last month), Farah, who earned 10,000 gold and 5,000 silver at Worlds last year, could easily have returned to the track in 2018 and remained among the best in the world. But after seven years of global domination on the track, Farah said that he wanted a new challenge, which the marathon certainly provides (the massive appearance fee he received for this race certainly doesn’t hurt, either).
Farah knows that against a field like London’s — annually the best in marathoning — he won’t be favored to win. His primary goal is Steve Jones’ British record of 2:07:13, set way back in 1985 at the Chicago Marathon. But if he’s feeling good, Farah could go for more.
“The aim is definitely go after that British record for sure. But at the same time, you know, in my mind, since 2014 to now, I’ve learned a lot more and done a lot more. So see how it goes I guess, but I guess the aim is just one step at a time, go out set a British record, see what I can do and then see what happens.”
I asked Farah whether he would have a personal pacemaker on Sunday, and while he demurred, he suggested that he plans to run aggressively.
“It’s the biggest race,” Farah said. “There’s only one way to run and that’s to mix it with the guys and see what we can do.”
That’s a big ask in London. The last two years, the leaders have hit halfway in 61:24 and 61:41. If they leaders go out on world record pace, would Farah be bold enough to go with them?
“If that’s what the guys are doing, why not?” Farah said.
Videos from today’s event below. Talk about this article on our messageboard. MB: Move over Boston. It’s time for London. Mo Farah says he will go with WR pace. “If that’s what the guys are doing, why not?”
Mo Farah press conference videos