Somaliland-born Mohamed Farah says he wants to move back to Britain, but as he kicked off his full-time road running career with victory in the Simplyhealth Great North Run today, he admitted that he is unlikely to make any changes to his training set-up in the short term as he attempts to turn himself into a world-class marathon runner.
Farah will run in the London Marathon on April 22 next year, the race where he made his debut over the distance in 2014, finishing eighth. He is not expecting the transition to be easy. Steve Jones’s British record is his first target, running at the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 is possible, but unless he can be successful, he accepts his marathon career might not be very long.
“You have to learn about it,” he said. “I’m taking ideas from other athletes. Doing long runs, tempos, and just try and learn from it. I’ll just see what happens.
“It does play on my mind: ‘do I think I could do Tokyo?’ Only if I’m good enough, if I get there and can get a medal, then, yeah. I wouldn’t let my country down. I would love to represent my country like I’ve done on the track. But it just depends on how the marathon goes. If it goes so badly, then I won’t be there, right?”
Today’s win was tougher than it looked. After the leading pack had been whittled down to just him and Jake Robertson, Farah stayed in the New Zealander’s slipstream and kicked past with 300m to go for his fourth successive win in the race in 1hr 6sec. He revealed, though, that he had done little hard training since ending his track career in Zurich last month. Last weekend, instead of training, his was scoring in the Game For Grenfell charity football match at Loftus Road, a day he described as “one of the best of my life”.
“Jake almost got rid of me with three miles to go because I was hurting,” Farah said. “There was definitely willpower in getting myself to the line first. It’s been hard to motivate myself after Zurich, after the world championships. I’m sore. Every part of my muscles is aching.”
A move back to England, he says, could happen in the next two years. He says he wants his children to grow up with English accents, although the move from his home in Portland will only happen when it suits his children’s schooling.
That would seem to rule out ending his relationship with Alberto Salazar, his controversial coach, for the time-being at least, although the main aim for the moment is to go on a family beach holiday and relax.
“I’m going to have ten days off, walk around a bit, put on a bit of weight,” he said. “I have missed the UK, but I have to put my kids first. They go to school there so I have to plan ahead. But we would like to be back in the next couple of years. 100 per cent. Go and watch my team [Arsenal] and do things I enjoy in the UK.
“I’ll go back to Portland. Then I’ll decide where I do a block of training leading up to the marathon.”
It was a happy day for Robertson, despite the sight of Farah running past him late on, as he proposed to his long-time partner Magdalyne Masai, the Kenyan runner, on the finish line. Masai, who finished fourth in the women’s race which was won by Mary Keitany, said yes.