120 Years, 120 Stories (Part 56): Mo Farah, the greatest British long-distance runner

Meet the Somali-born, British athlete Mo Farah in his Olympic fairytale.


Olympics has had always been a story of passion, endurance, and excellence and there are few like Mo Farah who can boast of all these three words while being crowned atop the podium. In this episode of our special Olympic series – celebrating the 120 years of the modern day game with 120 such stories – let us have a sneak peek into the memorable Olympic moments illustrated British athlete.

Mo Farah was born as Mohamed Muktar Jama in Somalia back in March 1983. Later he moved to London –his father’s birthplace – at the age of 8 and became a British citizen. Early in his teens, Farah represented Hounslow in the London Youth Games, though his first major breakthrough at the junior level came five years hence at the European Junior Championship in the 5000 m distance where he won gold. The athlete – who is a die-hard Arsenal fan and once wanted to play for the Gunners – turned pro sometime in 2005 and drew first blood with his individual gold haul in the European Cross Country Championship in Italy the following year.

The seasoned long distance runner’s first stint at the Games came in a forgettable show in Beijing when he finished a poor 6th in the 5000 m heats to bow out – months after clocking the best British time in 8 years in the 10000 m. Though Farah’s nine high profile track gold medals came in either 5000 m or 10000 m, the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) has ran all sorts of distances – ranging from 1500 m to marathon – in his competitive career so far.

On the back of a 5000 m gold at the World meet a year earlier, the European record holder of 1500 m, half marathon and two miles went to London in 2012 with an eye on the double of 5000 m and 10000 m. At his native capital, the Briton achieved the first ever 10000 m gold for his nation in a time of 27 min 30 sec. In a week’s time, Farah finished third in his heat to qualify for the finals of 5000 m. Eventually, another gold was grabbed by the lanky runner in a time of 13 min 41 s followed by his signature victory celebration with a “Mobot” dance.

Farah then achieved a few milestones when in successive World Championship in Moscow (2013) and Beijing (2015), the track great bagged doubles of his routine distances – in the process becoming the second person ever to do so. Next, he made the Rio Games his bird’s eye in achieving the first-ever quadruple-double (winning 2 golds in successive World meet and Olympics). In pre-Olympic season sometime in June, the cool athlete broke a three decade old 3000 m British record – thus giving his rivals a clear warning of what is to come in Brazil.

On 13th August, Mo became the first British athlete to win a record third Olympic gold when he romped with a time of 27 min 5 sec in the 10000 m. However, there was a lot of drama into this race as at one point in the 10th lap, Farah fell to the ground as he clipped the heel of American Galen Rupp while both of them were running neck to neck. A pride moment of Olympic spirit was observed as Rupp – Farah’s training partner – trotted for a while to enquire his friend’s status and as a result had to sacrifice a podium finish at coming 5th in the final standings. The joyful Farah looked hardly disturbed with the incident (or accident) as he rallied back to take the second place beyond Paul Tanui of Kenya with 300 m remaining in the race. Mo took the pole position with a 100 m to go and hold on till the finishing line.

Next week in the 5000 m, the living legend took the initial lead and held it strongly as he crossed the finishing line at 13 min 3 sec. In the process, he became the only second athlete to successfully defend both the long-distance titles at the quadrennial event after the legendary Finnish runner Lasse Viren of the 1970s. In all, Farah is the fastest European in almost all regular long-distance disciplines.

The most important aspect in Farah’s regard is that the 33-year old is still in fray and who knows if he were to defy growing age (may be not much of a concern for the long distance) to win a triple-double at the Olympics in the next Games at Tokyo in 2020. Only time can have the best answer to this.

Photo by babbo1957