On the track, he has won almost every major championship title on offer but the marathon distance remains an unknown quantity for Mo Farah, as he makes his 26.2-mile debut in a real baptism of fire in Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon.
Speaking at the official pre-race press conference near the capital’s Tower Bridge, the double Olympic and World 5,000m and 10,000m champion appeared in a relaxed mood and spoke confidently about his chances on his eagerly anticipated introduction to the event:
“The Virgin Money London Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world, I’ve been really looking forward to it racing it since I was a kid,” Farah explained.
“I’ve achieved a lot on the track but I wanted to test myself in the marathon.”
Despite harbouring the immense pressure from British fans to succeed on home turf and to continue his dominance of the distance-running world, the 31-year-old revealed his intentions without hesitation:
“My main target’s to go after the British record (2:07.13 held by Steve Jones from 1985) then see what else could happen, if I could go any faster and where I can finish.
“Whatever happens, it’s a great field. Every race is a risk (to my reputation) – I want to win but I’m not guaranteed to win.”
Indeed, with the field boasting most of the world’s greatest marathon runners in history, Farah still hopes to become the first British male winner of the race for 21-years and joked about the strength of his opposition:
“I want to thank Dave Bedford (the elite athlete coordinator and head of international relations) for making it an easy race for me!” he jested.
“I’m straight in at the deep end but that’s what world champions do. I respect the distance and I want to test myself as that’s what makes a real champion.”
Having run the 2013 event to the halfway mark as a test, many are relieved to see the London-raised runner in healthy and confident form following a fall in last month’s New York City half marathon.
“Training’s gone reasonably well, it wasn’t smooth all of the time but hiccups are part of it so overall, it’s gone well,” Farah insisted.
“I felt fine after New York – it was hard mentally and physically as I was so tired from giving 110% after the fall. I was really feeling it and seeing stars but I’m glad it happened there and not here.
“I didn’t miss any training, I just had a few scratches. It’s completely different preparing for the track to the road, it’s such a long way. It’s all about finding out if I’ll be any good at the distance or not.”
With the three-time Olympic and six-time World champion, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia recently transferring his track pedigree over to the marathon event with success in Paris last weekend courtesy of a 2:05.04 debut, Farah is in a positive frame of mind:
“I’d like to congratulate Bekele on his good marathon run – it gives me confidence that if he can do it, I can even in the toughest field ever,” he said.
Having only returned from a stint of high-altitude training in Kenya the previous evening, the US-based athlete continued:
“I honestly don’t know what they (his rivals) are thinking, I only know what I’m thinking.
“I’m just going to go with the group, try to be patient and not waste too much energy early on.”