"I am thinking of bringing my medals here.” Sitting at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Mo Farah, 28, isn’t just making fun of his beloved team’s recent lack of silverware; it’s the realisation of his own startling transformation. And with London 2012 now in his sights, ShortList discovered the secrets of his success.
How did you keep yourself motivated during the years you weren’t winning?
Ambition. Once I experienced winning a European Championship and being on the podium — that euphoria — I pushed myself harder to win the World Championship. The only pressure should be what you put on yourself.
What’s the toughest thing about your training?
My family and I now live in Portland, Oregon, close to Nike’s headquarters, where I train. But often I’ll spend a week in the mountains for high-altitude training. Not seeing my family is hard, but I’ve got to keep focused.
How advanced is Nike HQ?
I have a great team who make the most of all advancements. If I’m a few seconds off the time I need to be running, they’ll run blood tests, which could show it’s a virus that’s slowed me down, or whether I’m overtraining.
What’s your most hi-tech piece of training equipment?
My underwater treadmill. It’s exactly the same as a normal one, except that you put it into a swimming pool. It takes the pressure off your legs, helps you recover, and you can run more miles without getting hurt.
You have a big machine with you — what is it?
Whenever I’m somewhere that’s at sea level, like here in London, I’ll sleep in a high-altitude tent, and this box is what makes the air high-altitude. The only problem is that it’s really heavy and we have to carry it everywhere.
Tell us about your nutrition regime — what do you eat a lot of?
Bananas are good, or anything with good protein or good carbs. I count my five-a-day as a must. But I’ve got such a sweet tooth that if you put candy in front of me and I’ll eat it.
What’s your poison — Skittles?
[Laughs] I love Skittles. Especially as I’m based in America where you can get wild berry flavour. They taste good. I bought a massive bag of them from a wholesaler near my training camp and I didn’t take it to my room in case I finished them all. Instead, I put them in the car, so every morning before I went on a run I’d dip my hand into the window and grab a few.
What’s your ultimate iPod training song?
I like 2Pac’s Keep Ya Head Up. I like listening to Jay-Z as well.
Were you always a good trainer or did you have to work at it?
I had to work at it. I still do. I made a lot of changes in 2005. I used to think it was OK to train and then go out with my friends and live a normal life, but I realised that I couldn’t if I wanted to be a top athlete.
Do you follow the same training plan most days?
We mix it up. My team has session plans that change day to day, plus I have different coaches for different aspects of fitness. It’s important not to do too many different aspects daily, as I don’t want to suffer burnout.
What part of your body suffers the most?
The legs, and not even a specific part — everywhere. When you do it week in, week out, it can hurt. I have massages with a physio called Gerard Hartmann, who’s one of the world’s best. And it hurts. Man, you would pay him to let you off the table.
We heard you recently trained with Arsenal FC…
I was lucky enough to be invited to watch them train, and Arsene Wenger asked if I’d like to run out with them on the training pitch, which was one of the best days of my life. I didn’t take part in a physical game in case I got injured, but I passed the ball around a bit — my passing was awful.
Did you race Theo Walcott?
No, but I think we should do it for charity. [Speaks to his agent] What do you think? 200m? [Agent: “He ran 100m in 10.8 secs”]. Seriously? OK then, we’ll do 400m.
Mo’s killer training tip
Drink immediately before or after a 5k or 10k run, but not during it. Running with a bottle puts more pressure on whatever side of your body it’s weighing down, and running well is all about balance.
For more killer training tips head here.