Four years ago when Sir Mo Farah won the first of his four consecutive Great North Run titles he admitted he was still consumed with fear over what life on the road would bring.
Farah was still two years away from calling time on his glittering track career and remained unsure whether he was entirely cut out to translate that success to the world of elite marathon running.
But the 35-year-old returns to Newcastle on Sunday battle-hardened from two full years of mixing it with the world’s best distance runners – and intent on using the race to pave the way to glory over the longer distance.
Victory this weekend will make Farah the first man to win the Great North Run five times, and deliver the ideal preparations for his appearance next month at the Chicago Marathon.
“I’m still learning and understanding more and I’m not afraid to mix it in,” said Farah. “In 2014, I was afraid to mix it because it was their territory and I was a track runner. But now I’m not afraid of anything.
“It’s a totally different challenge and I’m enjoying every day of it. My goal is to win a major marathon. For a track runner the highlight is the Olympics, and in the marathon the biggest thing you can do is win a major race.”
This year’s Great North Run presents a different dimension for Farah, who admitted his previous victories in the race have signalled the end of the season and a rare opportunity to binge-eat sticky toffee pudding.
Farah, who has run the London Marathon twice, coming third in April, is closing in on his latest career goal and has not under-estimated the importance of making history in the process on Tyneside.
“My aim (in Newcastle) is to run a decent time – I’ve still got another week from this point so it will be a good test for me on Sunday to see where I am and what I can do,” said Farah.
“I’ve never gone into this race having had this amount of training. I’ve always gone into it thinking ‘Great North Run, finish, sticky toffee pudding’.
“But after this it’s straight back to my training camp in Flagstaff to prepare for Chicago. Hopefully I will get the job done and there will be a lot of stuff to take back. Doing that as the first five-time winner would be amazing.”
Farah’s biggest challenge is likely to come from Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru, winner of the 2017 London Marathon. Vivian Cheruiyot and Joyciline Jepkosgei are favourites for the women’s race.
World record marathon champion Paula Radcliffe is to be the international figurehead for the eighth edition of the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon in the Sultanate of Oman’s capital next January.
The multiple marathon winning British athlete has taken on the ambassadorial role to promote the increasingly popular event which has seen a record number of runners in each successive year since 2012, with more than 6,000 taking part earlier this year.
The iconic former marathon, half-marathon and cross-country world champion – whose women’s world record time of 2:15:25 set in 2003 remains unbroken – aims to encourage greater participation by runners from both Oman and the wider Middle East region and worldwide athletic community in the now internationally recognised event.
“Throughout my career I have set myself goals and then tried to achieve them, and by becoming an ambassador for the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon I hope I can inspire others, particularly women, to take on the challenge,” said Radcliffe.
“My childhood running coach used to say ‘aim for the moon because if you miss you will land on the stars’, and that is a great philosophy for running and for life. The Al Mouj Muscat Marathon is a fantastic opportunity for people to train, get healthier and take part in an inspiring event.”
Radcliffe will introduce and flag-off the start of the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon itself on Friday, January 18, 2019, and then take part in the 10k event.
Alongside the marathon and 10k races, the two-day festival of running will also feature half-marathon and marathon relay categories, a 5k charity fun run and a kids’ run.
“We are delighted that Paula has agreed to become our ambassador for the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon,” said Salma Al Hashmi, chief marketing officer at event organisers, Oman Sail.
“Paula is a legendary figure in the marathon world and beyond and she will play a vital role in further highlighting what is now internationally recognised as a world-class celebration of health and fitness.”
The Al Mouj Muscat Marathon has seen record-breaking numbers participate in each year since it was first held in 2012.
This year saw over 6,000 runners representing no fewer than 87 nationalities across all the categories – a 370 per cent increase on 2017 – and organisers are targeting a further step-change in 2019.
At the same time a long-term development plan has a target of 15,000 participants by 2022, with at least 20 per cent travelling from overseas as a result of Oman’s growing reputation as a premier sports tourism destination.
The 2018 edition was formally recognised by world running’s international governing body the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), and the Muscat coastal course was certified to International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) standards.
Radcliffe retired from competitive running in 2015. In her career she won both the London and New York marathons on three occasions, and has been European champion over 10,000m and in the cross-country.
Her numerous accolades include IAAF World Athlete of the Year (2002), AIMS World Athlete of the Year (2002, 2003 and 2005) and BBC Sports Personality of the Year. She was awarded the MBE in 2002.
Former Olympic champion Michael Johnson has announced the launch of his new Michael Johnson Performance (MJP) centre that will open in Dubai later this year.
MJP Dubai will open its doors in October at Mina Rashid that will offer athletes and fitness enthusiasts to train in a world-class sports facility.
The 38,750 square feet facility located in the heart of Dubai will offer members the ultimate fitness experience with individual personal training sessions, group fitness classes, sports medicine and nutrition, and athletic development programs for young athletes, and high-performance training programmes for professional athletes, all under one roof.
Coupled with world-class trainers, MJP Dubai will provide a range of programmes for people of all ages to improve their fitness or athletic performance through a scientific and data driven approach.
Global trade enabler DP World and MJP Dubai are joint venture partners in the project,
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Johnson said: “I’m extremely pleased for this opportunity, to partner with a global organization like DP World. The MJP brand is also a global one and it’s exciting to see another significant expansion in our growth journey.
“The state-of-the-art facility in Dubai is the region’s first sports performance training and fitness center and it will enable every athlete to achieve their potential, regardless of age, gender, limitation, sport or natural ability.”