AS THE crowd filed out into the winter evening at the soon-to-close Kelvin Hall, Mo Farah kept lapping the track as if there were invisible opponents nipping at his heels.
Then six months out from inscribing himself among the UK’s greatest Olympians at London 2012, he had broken the country’s indoor 1500 metres record in the hour before but there was still training to be done and advances to be made. It was, for the few left inside, a rare insight into the work ethic that would soon drive the Londoner towards sporting immortality.
Farah will make his return to Glasgow next week and he will adopt a similarly relentless approach. The 31-year-old confirmed yesterday that he will compete over two miles at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix at Hampden on July 12 with the Diamond League meeting serving effectively as a test event for those organising the Commonwealth Games and those gearing up to contend. “I haven’t seen pictures of the stadium with the track down, either, not spoken to anyone,” the double Olympic champion declared. “But it’s always exciting racing in the UK, with the crowd behind me. That is what excites me.”
It will be American-based Farah’s first significant outing on the track of this summer following a low-key outing near his home in Portland two weeks ago. His appearances, by necessity and choice, have been heavily rationed since a marathon debut in London in April that did not quite live up to the hype.
Attempting the distance was a roll of the dice. It provided useful insight, enough to persuade Farah and his coach Alberto Salazar that their energies are better spent on the long-term pursuits of defending his titles over 5000 and 10,000 metres at next year’s world championships and the 2016 Olympic Games after chasing a similar double at the Commonwealths.
Running 26 miles was harder than he had foreseen. He has eased slowly back into the fray. “It’s hard to say exactly where I am at the minute,” he conceded. “The 5k a few weeks ago was just to test myself. But it seems to be going in the right direction.”
Fresh challenges are the ignition for any athlete. There can be no standing still. Steve Ovett’s British two-mile best of eight minutes and 13.51 seconds has stood since 1978. The temporary track installed at Hampden is configured for quick times. “We’ll have a think as we get closer to it,” he said.
While Daniel Komen’s world record of 7:58 is acknowledged as among the toughest to crack, there are many who believe Farah should try to further enhance his personal legend by attacking the global marks in his two specialist distances, both currently held by Ethiopia’s Kenesisa Bekele.
“It would be nice to run good times and go fast,” he said. “But I don’t know how close it would be to get to the (5000m) record of 12:37 or the 10k at 26:17. Realistically I can get closer but it all depends on what happens after the Commonwealths, with the worlds next year and then the Olympics. You have to plan, sit down with your team and see what’s what.”
His initial Glasgow excursion will come exactly 100 weeks from the evening of Super Saturday in Stratford that provided the indelible hallmark of London 2012. It was a unique occasion, one he senses can never be replicated. It will take a late rush of ticket sales for Hampden’s Diamond League to emulate such an atmosphere. Arguably the best athletics bill Scotland has ever seen has proven harder to market than expected. His outings at the Commonwealths, however, might yet raise the roof. “Hopefully the crowd in Glasgow can carry me to the line – and that’s what I’ll definitely need,” Farah forecasts.
That he will be in England’s colours, he trusts, will not diminish the backing received. “‘When it comes to athletics, we tend to come together as the UK,” he added. “Even though I’m going to be competing for England, I think the Scottish people will still be behind me. I’m British and we get behind our athletes.”
His presence has undoubtedly provided the Games with additional lustre. Following Jamaica’s national trials last weekend, we will soon learn whether Usain Bolt will join him at the Commonwealths or be added to the list of notable absentees. The sprinter’s inclusion would sprinkle a little extra stardust upon Mount Florida. Would it, we wonder, engender a reprise of the Mobot meets the ThunderBolt that provided another stand-out memory of 2012? Old hat, Farah laughs. “You’ve got to come up with something new. Maybe a Scottish dance.” A jig of joy which would be worth hanging around to see.
l Watch 47 global medallists including Mo Farah, Yohan Blake, Christine Ohuruogu, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Greg Rutherford and David Rudisha star at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix as a part of the IAAF Diamond League series. For tickets please visit: britishathletics.org.uk.