Mo Farah is one of the sport’s biggest stars. In Zurich, he would like to take gold in the 5000m and the 10000m – just like he did at the European championships in 2010, the Olympic Games in 2012, and the world championships in 2013.
Mo Farah, how are you?
I’m fine. I am happy to be here. It was a bit of a bumpy ride. Now, I am eager to get started. I won my very first major championship medal at the Europeans in Goteborg. And four years later, in Barcelona, I took my first titles.
What would it mean to you to become European champion once again?
A lot. An athlete never forgets where it all started. And for me, it all started at European Athletics Championships. Europeans are still huge for me. Two years ago, I won the 5000m, but could not run the 10000m in Helsinki. Now, I will try to win gold in both events.
Are you ready for the championships?
I had some health issues and was forced to forego the Commonwealth Games. I don’t run if I am only 75 or 80 per cent ready. But by now, I have had some weeks of tough training, and I am quite happy with where I am. Two weeks ago, I would have answered the question differently, though.
What kind of health issues did you have to deal with?
I had to have a tooth out and caught an infection in the process. After a training session, I suddenly had severe abdominal pain. I even spent four days in hospital. After that, I gradually started to recover. But I had missed some training and therefore cancelled Glasgow. I am ok now. I just spent three and a half weeks at Font-Romeu in the French Pyrenees, training at high altitude.
You collapsed during a test race for your marathon debut in London. And then suffered from an infection recently. Are you worried about your health?
No, not really. I collapsed again this time, before I went into hospital. But I am not worried. I have had a thorough check-up back home. You have to remember that athletes keep pushing their bodies to the limit. That’s how we become champions. I run 120 miles every week. Whatever the weather, I go out and run, sometimes at high altitude. Quite a challenge for the body. But with hindsight, I realised that the body needs rest after a marathon. Maybe I was rushing things a bit because of the Commonwealth Games.
You tweeted a picture of yourself running with a pacemaker on a bicycle in a training session. It’s probably a good sign if your pacemaker needs a bicycle.
That was actually one of the key trainings to get ready for Zurich. But it does not mean that I am running as fast as Usain (Bolt). I would love to train like that all the time, but the guy on the mountain bike was there only once. A pacemaker on a bicycle can monitor the pace at all times, and he can drive at a consistent speed.
Your initial plan was to run the 5000m and the 10000m both at the Commonwealth Games and in Zurich.
Yes, that was what I had in mind originally. I was going to make final decisions depending on how I was doing after my first marathon in April. My body did not let me follow through with the initial plan.
What memories do you have of Zurich?
The crowd is always awesome. I remember that from running at the Diamond League meetings I ran here. A great crowd is a huge support for any athlete. Four years ago, I ran my first sub-13-minute 5000m in Zurich, breaking the British record in the process. To me, Letzigrund Stadium is a magic place.
Have you abandoned your plan to tackle the marathon?
For the moment, I have. Marathon is entirely different from the 5000m or 10000m. But 2014 is a good year to try new things, as there are no world championships or Olympics. It was tough, and my 2:08 were not good enough. Last year, I ran 3:28.81 in a 1500m race, and tackled the marathon this year – quite a switch. I was having a hard time. But you always have to try new things in life.
What did you learn during your side trip to the marathon?
That there is a lot of work to be done. That I can’t run the 1500m European record one year and a very fast marathon the next. But I would not prepare for my first marathon differently if I had the chance to do it again. I just have to be patient in getting to know this event. You don’t become a great marathon runner in a jiffy.
So the marathon is off the cards. A final decision?
No. I would like to try again towards the end of my career. Right now, I am going to concentrate on the Europeans, then on the 2015 world championships, and after that, on the Olympics in 2016. Right now, I am better at track races than at the marathon.
How difficult was it to return to the 5000m and 10000m after training for the marathon?
It was quite difficult. For the marathon, you complete many long training units, you run many, many miles. For 1500m, 5000m, and 10000m, you need speed, you need to run hard. So, it was tough, but I am happy with the way things are now.
You are known for your speed. Last year, at the championships in Moscow, you ran your final lap in 53 seconds. Can you still do that?
Yes, I hope I have not lost that.
You have not run many track races this year. A handicap?
Well, I did not plan the season like that. I wanted to have three or four track races. Now, the race in Portland was the only one I did since Moscow. It is what it is.
Are the Europeans an attempt at saving your 2014 season after the unsatisfactory result of the London marathon and after missing the Commonwealth Games?
It does feel a bit like that. But then again: I always go out to win. But maybe I just want to win a bit more badly this time.
During the London Olympic Games, you slept in an altitude tent. Will you do that in Zurich?
No, I won’t. Usually, I go to races coming straight from altitude training. And after the competition, I go back to high altitude.