After the events of the London Marathon this weekend, we got our first chance to see how Mo Farah has adapted to his change of coaching allegiance.
In 2011 Mo Farah joined the Nike Oregon project under his new coaches wings: Alberto Salazar. Farah had been in contact with with Salazar for several years prior to his signing, but Alberto was initially wary of accepting Farah as his own athlete, as Alberto himself was a marathon specialist (gaining his knowledge from a long and successful career he had himself), and he perceived Farah to be a Middle distance – Long distance runner, so didn’t believe he would be the best choice for Farah’s athletic development. However, after years of near misses and disappointing races, Alberto finally decided to coach Farah along with another one of his athletes – Galen Rupp. Salazar had coached Rupp since he was 16 years old and found introducing Farah as his training partner would be beneficial for the both of them. After 2011, there was a big change within Farah’s ability, and his athletic prowess, as he started to rack up an abundance of global medals: 4 Olympic Golds and 6 World Championship Golds, in the 5,000m and 10,000m respectively.
The most iconic race for the Salazar group came in the form of the 10,000m final – London 2012 Olympics. In a world class field, Farah managed to conquer his rivals in a spectacular final 100m, he was not alone however as his training partner Galen Rupp fought his way into the silver medal position, asserting the dominance Alberto Salazar has in the coaching world. It didn’t take long, however, for Galen Rupp to make the transition from the track to the roads, after announcing his targets in the marathon after the 2015 world championships – a move that seemed ideal as he claimed bronze in the marathon in the 2016 Rio Olympic games.
The change of Rupp’s commitment, however, did not affect Farah’s ability, as he managed to continue to train hard, and claim more titles at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships.
Mo Farah announced his retirement from competing on the track after the 2017 World Championships, stating clear intentions to transition to the roads, competing in Half Marathons and the full Marathon distance. Seeing as Salazar is a Marathon specialist, it seemed like this would be a good transition for Farah, as his coach would be able to train Farah in a field which he is an expert. However, shortly after retiring from the track, Farah left the Nike Oregon Project, along with his coach Alberto.
There is much speculation as to why Farah made this decision. It is easy to believe that he did it because of all the drug allegations Salazar was facing; There were reports of him supplying Galen Rupp – along with many other athletes – prescriptions and substances they did not need, in order to aid their training. Scared that the bad word on his coach would also be cast on himself, perhaps this is the reason Farah left Salazar and the Oregon project – to avoid speculation. Farah, however, claims that he wanted to move back to London with his family, as that is where his children were born, and that is where he wants them to be raised.
The reason Farah made this decision will never be clear, we can only approach it with speculation. He then sought coaching guidance in one of his life-long acquaintances – Gary Lough – to help fulfill his ambitions in the Marathon.
After training in Ethiopia for three months prior, with a new coach, new training group and regiment, it was time for Farah to line up on the start line of the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon. This was his first appearance on the global scene after making this transition, and the world waited eagerly to see the legend himself perform over the Marathon Distance. Farah did show his inexperience at the distance, after struggling to identify and collect his own water bottle at consecutive stations, something the other Marathon ‘specialists’ such as Eluid Kipchoge and Keninesa Bekele did with ease. After sticking with the very fast opening half (61:00) Farah surprised us by sticking with the breakaway leaders – Kipchoge and Kitata. Again showing that he is not fully ready for this distance, he faded rather dramatically in the closing stages, perhaps due to inproper pacing or hydration. He did, however, manage to hang on to third position, clocking a time of 2:06:21 – setting a new British Record in the process.
Despite all the controversy around Farah’s change of coaching allegiance, the change has now been witnessed world wide as a positive. Although it is clear he is still a novice at this event, the world now believes he will soon be a force to be reckoned with, thanks to the his very talented (and drug scandal free) new coach – Gary Lough. The world waits with anticipation to witness the next Farah performance.
Featured photograph – Farah with Alberto Salazar.