Back in August, we watched as Mohammed ‘Mo’ Farah narrowly missed out on becoming the first British world champion over 10,000m. With just one lap to go, Farah looked like he was set to take gold. However, despite running a 53 second final lap, his lead was slowly eroded until he was heart wrenchingly overtaken by Ethiopia’s Jeilan just meters from the finish line.
A week later, however, Mo was back on the track, this time in the 5,000m. Once again, Mo still leads at the front with 400m to go. However, whereas last time he ‘kicks’ early, perhaps too early, this time Farah executes his race perfectly and, holding off the formidable 1500m pace of USA’s Bernard Lagat, takes gold. In doing so, Mo Farah had achieved more than any other British distance runner before him. This 5,000m world title was the crowning glory of a 2011 which also saw Farah win at the European Indoor Championships and the New York City half marathon and shatter the UK 10,000m record.
The clichÃ©d maxim of the sprinter is that any race longer than 400m is just ‘jogging’ — a title that understandably irks those endurance athletes who see sprinters as lazy, posy and in need of a good long run to toughen them up. While he might run 10,000 meters, Farah is certainly no jogger. In fact, if most of the sprinters at last year’s athletics Varsity match had joined Mo for a 10,000m race when he was 9,600m down and only 400m to go, few would be able to keep up with him.Â Â
And that is arguably why Farah’s achievements mean so much more than the other sportsmen in this year’s shortlist. Everyone knows who the fastest kid in school is – everyone runs. If you’re the best at tennis or golf, however, who knows if the other kids wouldn’t beat you if they also had the chance to give it a go? Mo Farah was probably the best runner in his school (no mean feat in high-altitude Djibouti where the Mogadishu-born Farah was raised until the age of 8). Now he is the best in the world. Not to take too much away from the incredible prowess of other sportsmen in this year’s shortlist, but surely the ubiquity, purity and simplicity of running makes knocking balls into holes or back and forth across a net seem rather contrived in comparison and Farah even more deserving of the SPotY title.
But what about other successful British athletes? After a world championship 400m hurdles gold, Greene is rightly up for SPotY nomination and, although both missing out on gold, Phillips Idowu and Jess Ennis have enjoyed the same level of success as Mo. However, Farah has a sparkle and determination about him that, for me, sets him apart from an exceptional crop of British athletes and, if he achieves gold in London, will put him among the legends of British athletics.
According to the bookies, at 14/1, Farah has a tangible, if still an outside chance at taking the SPotY title, a title he would undoubtedly be delighted to put alongside his European athlete of the year award. However, I doubt he will win. With the London Olympics so close, 2011 was, for Farah, about setting himself up for 2012 when his fate will truly be decided. Hopefully the best of Mo Farah is still to come. The nation expects. Â