For an insight into what separates sporting greats from mere mortals, Sir Mo Farah’s reaction to Eliud Kipchoge’s crushing marathon record acts as exemplar.
At September’s Berlin race, the Kenyan didn’t just set a new benchmark – he charged into another sporting sphere. The 34-year-old finished in an unfathomable 2 hours, one minute and 39 seconds, taking nearly 1:20 off the previous best.
It was the largest single improvement in more than 50 years. Plus, a 10th win in 11 attempts by him over the fabled 26.2-mile (42.2 kilometres) distance.
Remarkably, there was precious sign of strain on Kipchoge’s beaming face as he sprinted through the Brandenburg Gate and into immortality.
Farah is only at the start of a journey to master the marathon in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Witnessing an opponent perform in such omnipotent manner would shatter the dreams of most aspirants.
The Somalia-born, Great Britain icon, however, is utterly undaunted. That’s what four Games golds across 5,000 and 10,000 metres will do for your belief.
Speaking to Sport360 at a Dubai Fitness Challenge event on The Palm, the 35-year-old revealed a firm insistence that “anything is possible”.
He says: “Seeing that time, it was just like… A lot of people ask if it is possible to run a world record?
“He didn’t just run a world record, he took it apart. And the way he took it apart was ridiculous.
“I was watching it in our training camp in Arizona with my coach [Gary Lough], and my training partners. I was going ‘no, let him get through 30k’. Then he went through 35k [at the record pace] and continued on, as the pace markers dropped out at halfway.
“It was really impressive. Obviously, if he can do that, anything is possible.”
Farah went from fleeing Mogadishu as an infant, to living as a refugee in Djibouti and finally settling in London aged eight.
A major breakthrough would come with 10,000m silver and 5,000m gold at the 2011 World Athletics Championships.
A year later, his name would go down in lore thanks to an Olympic double. The highlight came with 10,000m success on ‘Super Saturday’ in front of an exhilarated London crowd.
He would double up four years later in Rio and – temporarily, at least – exit the track shortly after another gold and silver at the 2017 Worlds.
An unmatched tactical brain and relentless final kick separates him out as a phenomenal talent. Even then, does Kipchoge’s dominance influence Farah’s thoughts about taking on the marathon at next autumn’s World Championships?
“No,” he replies. “Tactically, I am stronger than anyone else and I know there is no one else out there who can tactically be as good as me.
“Obviously, the more I do it, and more experience I can have now, and just working it out, I can put myself in a good position.”
Last month at a sodden Chicago, a maiden marathon victory was claimed from the third time of asking. This new European record of 2:05.11 provided a valuable boost of confidence.
April’s London Marathon is next up. What is a realistic target after that at the Worlds, if he chooses to remain committed to the longer distance?
Farah replies: “For me, I’ve run low 2:05. I know myself I could have done a low 2:04.
“I don’t know how much lower I could have gone. That’s my honest opinion. But at the same time, it is different in a championship race. There are no pacers, there is nothing – just three Kenyans, three Ethiopians etc.
“You have to be smart and work it out.”
Another icon of London 2012 is attempting to undergo a starker transition. Jamaica’ eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt is undertaking a global tour, aged 32, to parlay his sprint achievements into a professional football career.
After training with the likes of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, he would score twice in an October friendly for Australia’s Central Coast Mariners. No agreement about permanent terms was reached, however, at the end of this lengthy trial.
What has Farah made of his friend’s attempted change of direction?
He replies: “Usain is someone I look up to. It is great to see that side of him. Really wanting to do something new, something he wants to enjoy.
“I know there is a lot of doubts and people who say: ‘you can run, but you can’t play football.’
“But he can play football. I hope he just does what he does and is himself. I’ve played with him in Soccer Aid. He was alright, I wasn’t marking him.”
Farah himself boasts an affinity for football. 2018/19 marks his first as an Arsenal season-ticket holder.
Unai Emery’s seamless succession from Arsene Wenger has created “an amazing time”. It is just a shame, then, that Farah has barely been around to witness it.
He says: “It is an amazing time, but my wife has been to more games than I have. I’ve been away training. I’m a bit gutted, in a way.
“I went back for the Leicester game and I was like ‘oh my days’ when we went 1-0 down. I was like, is it me who brought the bad luck?”
Farah has come from nothing to achieve the spectacular. It is this enlivening message he wished to convey when encouraging runners after a few laps of Palm Jumeirah Fitness Village.
He says: “You are always going to have doubts, no matter what.
“My wife didn’t believe she could do it [when she started running]. She started with five kilometres and is now on half marathons.
“It is about being able to connect as families, letting kids enjoy it and see what you do.”
A dazzling Closing Carnival will mark the end of another successful Dubai Fitness Challenge this weekend. The two-day event will be held at the city’s most spectacular venues, Burj Park and Dubai Opera in Downtown Dubai.
Carnival goers of all ages and fitness abilities will enjoy a huge range of exciting activities. For more information, visit www.dubaifitnesschallenge.com.
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