Sir Mo Farah says his latest title is an honour
In the mud and the conditions of today’s Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry, the man who is arguably the greatest British distance runner of all time knows that will count for little.
Listed in the start list simply as Mo Farah, the array of achievements strung out alongside indicate his majesty on the track more emphatically than any noble title.
And, whether it is “Sir Mo”, “Mo” or “Mad Mo”, he says he will answer to the lot. The most important thing is that the ambitions remain the same.
“It is an honour to be called Sir. It is something I never dreamed of as an athlete,” although he said no-one doffed a cap or used his new title when he joined in a recent training session at his beloved Arsenal. “To be able to represent your country is very exciting. The first time I got a Great Britain vest was amazing and to be able to have the career I have had is amazing. To be recognised by the country and the public is incredible and it is amazing for athletics. It gives young people a dream, and a hope. It gives the message that if you work hard at something you can achieve it.
“I think everyone who knows me as Mo can call me Mo. It is just nice for the country to recognise me for what I have achieved. It is nice to have that title but at the same time nothing has changed.”
A double, double Olympic champion, with golds in 5,000m and 10,000m at both London and Rio, he is going for a triple whammy of World Championship doubles in London later this year, hoping to replicate the successes of 2013 and 2015 before he turns his attentions from the track to the road and a future in marathon running.
But through it all he will be “the same old Mo. Nothing has changed. To be given a title is something I never dreamed of as a kid. Coming to Britain, not speaking a word of English. Now achieving what I have achieved and to be recognised for my country which I love running for”.
It is a pat on the back for Farah but also a shot in the arm for those who rail against the negativity attached to immigration. That is something the man who moved from Somalia to the UK as an eight-year-old considers a massive bonus. “It is really important to be able to do that. I was given a chance and you have to make the most of it. I was lucky to be able to come over to Britain and join my father. I work hard at what I do but if I wasn’t given that chance I wouldn’t be here. You have to get people to understand that you are going to work hard. It is hard.”
The graft and the sacrifice is well documented but while the rewards are now coming thick and fast and he has the respect of every athlete who will pound the capital course along with him today, none of his main rivals will stand by and offer him a guard of honour.
At Holyrood park last year he had to settle for second place, behind USA’s Garrett Heath, and in what he says is likely to be his last ever cross country, he wants to better than that this weekend. He has been aided by the fact that the underfoot conditions are less wet and boggy than has been the case in recent years.
“That should help me because I’m a track runner,” he said. “But Garrett is pretty amazing. He is playing it down here but I am sure he is in great shape or else he wouldn’t be here. Cross country, you never know what you are going to get. It’s going to be an exciting race. Hopefully I’ll go one better. My training is okay, but it is not what I want it to be. At the same time it is cross country, it is early season and that doesn’t stop me giving 110 per cent.”
That work ethic has taken him to the top and helped him triumph in cross country and on the track, and he hopes it will all translate on to the road when he hangs up the spikes and turns his full attention to marathon running at the end of this season.
When he does, he is confident he is leaving British distance running in good hands. Sitting alongside him at the press conference yesterday was Laura Muir, the fastest woman over 1,500m in 2016 and the new British 5,000m record holder after an impressive showing in only her second top-level race over that distance, this week.
She is preparing herself for a double assault on World Championship success in the summer, with an eye on not only bettering the fifth-place finish she enjoyed in the 1,500m in 2015 but also adding the 5,000m to her schedule.
“It’s do-able. Anything is possible,” said Farah. “I don’t know what the timetable is like for Laura but I’m sure it is possible. As long as they’re not on the same day, which would make it pretty tough! It’s pretty impressive what Laura did the other day, her first race of the season and she breaks a British record. To run that time is pretty decent. I looked at it and thought: ‘Ooh, I’d take that’.
“It’s pretty amazing to see Laura do so well. I’ve seen her progress over the last couple of years. I’ve been in championships with her and seen what a fighter she is. She’s also come to training – and she trains like a beast. That’s what it takes to become a champion. It’s not easy and in this day and age, we have to be able to run a good 800, 1,500 and 5,000. I know Andy [Young, her coach] will have watched a lot of races, worked out that the opposition can run well at different stages – and you have to be better than them in all areas if you’re going to win.”
That is why, whether he is referred to as Sir or just Mo, he is renowned as a winner.