MO FARAH is standing 8,000ft above sea level overlooking Kenya’s Rift Valley and the scenery could hardly be more beautiful.
But this is no sight-seeing holiday for the double Olympic champion. He’s preparing for the toughest race of his life.
Mo, 30, is spending three months in a gruelling training camp to prepare for his debut in the Virgin Money London Marathon.
That’s 12 weeks without seeing his wife Tania, 28, daughter Rhianna, eight, and 17-month-old twin girls Aisha and Amani, who are at home in America.
Thanks to the poor internet connection at the camp, it’s hard for Mo even to Skype them and talk face-to-face.
Every week he runs 130 miles to prepare him for the 26.2-mile course and pretty much his only relaxation is watching his beloved Arsenal. But – as ever – Mo is smiling.
“My dream has always been to run the London Marathon,” he says. “This has come at the right time.
“I Skype the kids because I want to see them, but the internet’s not too good. I need to come out here. If you want to do something, you have to give it 110%.”
Heading to the high-altitude camp in Iten, Kenya, means Mo is free from distractions and can concentrate on his punishing schedule.
And after being constantly in the spotlight since winning gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at London 2012, it’s certainly a
“They don’t make life complicated. You can find people to run with every day. You don’t have to go home and open your mail, deal with those kind of things.
“It’s eat, train, sleep here. Training comes first.
“I might go for a coffee or something. I’ll watch the football all the time. There’s not much else to do.”
Luckily for Mo, his isolation in Kenya means he can watch the Gunners more often than at home in Portland, Oregon.
“I watch Arsenal all the time,” he laughs. “I haven’t been this excited about them for a long time. With Ozil in the team, we’re stronger.
“Hopefully we can get a striker in. It’s about having faith. This year we’re a lot closer to a trophy.”
He’s also learning how to speak Swahili – he already speaks Somali – and chatters away on the phone in the language. Mo also greets people with a cheerful “Hakuna Matata” – the famous phrase from The Lion King which means “no worries” in Swahili.
“People are nice to me,” he says.
“Even on the plane when I was coming from Nairobi to Eldoret, the pilot wanted a picture of me.
“Before we took off he told me to come into the cockpit and showed me the buttons. The kids here call me Mofarah.
They think it’s one word. I run through a village and they shout: ‘Mofarah!’”
Somali-born athlete admits April’s Virgin Money London Marathon will be the hardest race of his life. And his body’s taking a hiding as he prepares to push himself further than ever before.
Friday is his rest day where he runs a mere 10 miles. Sunday is his long run which could amount to 20-plus miles. “Your body is just taking a beating all the time,” says Mo.”
“It will be the hardest race of my life. There’s no secret – it’s about training, listening to your body and doing the key sessions.
“If I had thought the marathon would have been easier, then maybe I would have stayed at home, chilled out a little bit and come out for a month. But I wanted to do the work so I have to be here.”
Mo knows the pressure on him to win on April 13 will be immense. He says the British public automatically assume he’ll win everything he enters.
“The public expect me to win,” he admits. “And if I don’t, it will be like: ‘What’s happened to Mo?’ And I’d say you don’t know how I was feeling.
“But I’m getting more into social media to keep people informed about what I’m up to. Hopefully they will have a better understanding.”
He’s grown a beard which is staying in place until April.
“I don’t like to shave when I’m in serious training,” he says. “But it will be trimmed before the race.”
But while there’s no guarantee of a first-place finish, he’s counting on the roar of the crowd to spur him on.
“It’s going to help me a huge amount,” explains Mo.
“I’m hoping if my rivals are going to intimidate me, the crowd can do their bit and intimidate them. Maybe I can just give them some signals?
“Having the crowd behind me is amazing and that’s what carries me.
“You saw that from what happened in London. There were a lot of people out there and they just kept cheering.
“That’s another reason I want to run London.
“Imagine if 75,000 people in the stadium are just shouting your name, what would it be like when you’re on the street and people don’t have to pay anything – they’ve just come to watch you?”
Source: The Star