Making of a star athlete



A devoted dad as well as a world-class athlete, Mo Farah would never miss saying goodnight to his three young daughters. But usually it's on Skype, with year-old twins Aisha and Amani and eight-year-old Rainy sitting in front of the family computer. For being a double gold medallist in both the Olympics and world championships, and one of the world's top long and middle-distance runners, comes at a price.

Currently running at least 120 miles a week as part of his intensive training for the 2014 London Marathon, 30-year-old Mo is away from his wife Tania and three daughters for up to half the year.

And when he is back with his family at their home in Portland, Oregon, where he has been based since 2011, Mo still has a relentless training schedule.

"He'll be out for a long run in the morning," Tania says. "Then he'll go to the gym for a few hours. We might see him for an hour before he goes for another run. When he is at home, he'll usually try to get a nap in!"

"It's hard but it's something we've had to cope with since we first got together. We don't get to see that much of him so when we do see him, we appreciate that time so much more."

Tania and Mo met at school in London where Mo had arrived from Somalia as an eight-year-old knowing hardly any English. He was mad about football - he's a fervent Arsenal fan and has trained with the first-team - and wanted to be a footballer until sports-teachers, impressed by his speed, persuaded him to switch to athletics. 

Currently in Kenya for high-altitude training as part of his marathon preparations, Mo admits that the 11-hour time difference causes added problems when trying to keep in touch with his family.

"Our morning is night in Kenya," Tania says. "I'll be getting ready for breakfast and he'll be getting ready for bed. It's also very difficult to get a good Internet connection."

Despite the pressures on his home life, Tania is convinced that settling down with a family has helped make Mo into a world-class athlete — proved by the fact that his run of gold medals only started after the  couple were married in 2010.

Friends say that world acclaim has had no effect on the down-to-earth Mo, and Tania confirms: "He is still very very humble but what has changed is his self-discipline and professionalism. 

"Nothing is allowed to get in the way of his training. That's what has made him one of the greatest distance runners the UK has known."

Currently concentrating on marathon running, Mo says he is relentlessly pushing himself as he gets ready to run 26 miles competitively for the first time.

This involves changing his stride pattern to make it more efficient for long distances. "I'm feeling more tired than ever," he says. "It's not easy but everything seems to be going in the right direction.

"I love the idea of the marathon and I'm training hard. It's a great honour to be thought of in the same way as such great athletes as Sob Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram and the rest. 
"I don't see that as any pressure. I've never done a marathon before and it will probably take me three or four races to get it right."      

As usual, Mo has put his future in the hands of his coach Alberto Salazar, based at Portland and who has masterminded his glittering career since Mo and his family moved States-side in 2011.

An insider close to the Mo camp says: "As usual, Alberto has planned everything meticulously. Currently Mo is averaging the equivalent of nearly five marathons a week. That's much more than when he was running on the track."

And Salazar, a former marathon world record holder, adds: "Since he has come to Portland Mo is much fitter, much stronger and more determined. We are focusing on speed endurance.

"We are already thinking about the marathon in the Rio Olympics. If Mo does well in London, the sky could be the limit for him."

It's the latest challenge for the star who became only the second man in history to complete the long-distance double — adding the world 5,000 and 10,000-metre titles to his Olympic golds.

"When people ask if I'm getting sick of winning I say:  'Is Usain Bolt? He's won more medals and set more records but he doesn't seem to get sick of it.'

"I'm inspired by him. To be able to carry on and do what he's doing is unbelievable. You look up to someone like him."

Mo concedes that staying at the top is even harder than getting there in the first place. "Sometimes you want to relax but you can't because you've got to think about the opposition. They're there, ready to get you!

"What I do best is run and train hard. No one can take away what I've achieved. That's what is important to me. 

"Coming to the UK as an eight-year-old kid I could never have dreamed of achieving the success I have, not the reaction of the public to it. It makes me very proud."

So what other challenges has Mo got in his sights? "I tried water-skiing at Richard Branson's Necker Island and was pretty unsuccessful at first," Mo says.

"That's something I could learn how to do properly when I eventually hang up my running shoes..."

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