Mohamed Muktar Jama "Mo" Farah, CBE (Somali: Maxamed Mukhtaar Jaamac Faarax) (born 23 March 1983) is a British distance runner. On the track, he mostly competes over 5000 metres and 10,000 metres, but has run competitively from 1500 metres to the marathon.
The most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history, he is the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medallist in both the 5000 m and 10,000 m. He is the second athlete in modern Olympic Games history, after Lasse Virén, to successfully defend the 5000 m and 10,000 m titles. Farah also completed the double at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships in Athletics. He was the second man in history to win long-distance doubles at successive Olympics and World Championships, and the first in history to do the quadruple-double.
Born in Somalia, Farah moved to the UK as a child. He was originally based in London and ran for Newham and Essex Beagles athletics club, training at St Mary's University College, Twickenham from 2001 to 2011. He has trained with Alberto Salazar in Portland, Oregon since 2011. Farah runs distance races tactically, but also can maintain a fast pace and has a quick sprint finish.
Farah is the European record holder for the 1500 m, 10,000 m, half marathon and two miles, the British record holder for the 5000 m, the European indoor record holder for 5000 m, the British indoor record in the 3000 m and the current indoor world record holder for the two miles.
He is the most decorated athlete in British athletics history, with nine global titles, and was the first British athlete to win two gold medals at the same world championships. His five gold medals at the European Athletics Championships make him the most successful individual athlete in championships history. He was European Athlete of the Year in both 2011 and 2012, and has been the British Athletics Writers Association British Athlete of the Year five times (more than any other). Farah was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2013.
Early life and education
Farah was born on 23 March 1983 in Mogadishu, Somalia. His full name is Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah. He spent the early years of his childhood in Djibouti with his twin brother. He moved to Britain at the age of eight to join his father, speaking barely a word of English. His grandfather, Jama, was born in the British protectorate of Somaliland. His father, Mukhtar Farah, is an IT consultant and a British citizen, who was born in London, England and grew up in Hounslow. Mohamed's parents had met during a holiday.
Farah attended Isleworth and Syon School, and Feltham Community College. His athletic talent was first identified by physical education teacher Alan Watkinson. Farah's ambition was to become a car mechanic or play as a right winger for Arsenal football club. He later joined the Borough of Hounslow Athletics Club in west London.
Farah represented Hounslow at cross-country in the London Youth Games. In 1996, at the age of 13, he entered the English schools cross-country and finished ninth. The following year he won the first of five English school titles. Recognizing his talent, athletics philanthropist Eddie Kulukundis paid the legal fees to complete Farah's naturalisation as a British citizen, allowing Farah to travel to competitions without visa issues.
Farah's first major title was at 5000 metres at the European Athletics Junior Championship in 2001, the same year that he began training at St Mary's University College, Twickenham. That year, Farah became one of the first two athletes in the newly formed Endurance Performance Centre at St Mary’s. He lived and trained at the College, and took some modules in an access course before becoming a full-time athlete as his career progressed.
2005–2008: First titles and personal bests
In 2005, Farah moved in with Australian Craig Mottram and a group of Kenyan runners that included 10,000 m world number one Micah Kogo. "They sleep, eat, train and rest, that's all they do but as an athlete you have to do all those things. Running with Craig made me feel more positive," Farah said. "If I ever want to be as good as these athletes I've got to work harder. I don't just want to be British number one, I want to be up there with the best."
In July 2006, Farah clocked a time of 13 minutes 9.40 seconds for 5000 m to become Britain's second-fastest runner after Dave Moorcroft. A month later Farah collected the silver medal in the European Championship 5000m in Gothenburg. Coaches Alan Storey and Mark Rowland made sure that Farah remained competitive and a few words from Paula Radcliffe before the 5000 m final inspired Farah. He has stated that: "She said to me, 'Go out and be brave. Just believe in yourself'." In December 2006, Farah won the 2006 European Cross Country Championships in San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy.
2009–2010: British records and European champion
In January 2009, Farah set a new British indoor record in the 3000 metres, breaking John Mayock's record with a time of 7 minutes 40.99 seconds in Glasgow. A few weeks later, he broke his own record by more than six seconds with a time of 7 minutes 34.47 at the UK Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, a performance which commentator Steve Cram called "the best performance by a male British distance runner for a generation". Farah attributed his good form to a spell of winter training at altitude in Ethiopia and Kenya. In March 2009 he took gold in the 3000 m at the European Indoor Championships in Turin, recording a time of 7 minutes 40.17.
Farah competed at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics: he was in the leading pack early on in the 5000 metres race and eventually finished seventh – the best by a European runner. After the championships, he scored a victory in his first road competition over 10 miles, winning the Great South Run in 46:25 to become the third fastest Briton in spite of strong winds.
Farah was one of the favourites to upset Serhiy Lebid's dominance at the 2009 European Cross Country Championships. However, Lebid was never in contention as Farah and Alemayehu Bezabeh were some distance ahead throughout the run. Farah was overtaken by Bezabeh in the latter stages of the race, leaving the Briton with a second consecutive silver medal at the competition. He did not manage to attend the medal ceremony, however, as he collapsed immediately after the race and needed medical attention. After a close third place behind Edwin Soi at the BOclassic, Farah competed in the short course race at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country. He was the favourite to win and surged ahead to build a comfortable lead. However, he appeared tired in the latter stages and finished third behind British runners Ricky Stevenson and Steve Vernon. Farah again required post-race medical attention and subsequent tests revealed he had low levels of iron and magnesium. He was prescribed supplements for the condition and his high altitude training plans in Kenya were unaffected.
Farah won the 2010 London 10,000 in late May in a time of 27:44, in the process beating 10K world record holder Micah Kogo. His success continued the following week at the European Cup 10,000 m. There, he improved his track best by nearly 16 seconds, finishing in a time of 27:28.86. Farah won by a margin of over forty seconds ahead of second placed Abdellatif Meftah. After training in Africa, he returned to Europe for the 2010 European Athletics Championships. He took the 10,000 metres gold medal, overtaking Ayad Lamdassem with two laps to go and finishing the race unpressured in a time of 28:24.99. This was Farah's first major title and also the first European gold medal in the event for Great Britain. He then went on to win the 5000 m from Jesus España, becoming only the fifth man in the 66-year history of the European Championships to achieve the 5000 m/10,000 m double, and the first for 20 years, following in the footsteps of the Czech Emil Zátopek in 1950, Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak of Poland in 1958, Finland’s Juha Vaatainen in 1971 and Salvatore Antibo, of Italy, in 1990.
On 19 August 2010, at a Diamond League meeting in Zürich, Farah ran 5000 m in 12:57.94, breaking David Moorcroft's long-standing British record and becoming the first ever British athlete to run under 13 minutes.
In December 2010, Farah was named track-and-field athlete of the year by the British Olympic Association. He closed the year at the BO classic and just missed out on the 10,000 m title, losing to Imane Merga in a sprint finish by 0.2 seconds.
2011: European and British records, and world medals
2011 was a successful year for Farah, beginning on 8 January at the Edinburgh Cross Country, where he defeated the top four finishers of that year's European Championships to take victory in the long race.
In February 2011, Farah announced that he would be relocating to Portland, Oregon to work with new coach Alberto Salazar, train alongside Galen Rupp, and escape the British tabloids. On 19 February 2011 in Birmingham, England, Farah broke the European 5000 m indoor record with a time of 13:10.60, at the same time taking ten seconds off the 29-year-old British indoor record of Nick Rose. On 5 March 2011, he won gold in the 3000 metres at the European Indoor Championships. On 20 March, Farah also won the NYC Half Marathon in a time of 1:00:23, a new British record. He and training partner Galen Rupp had originally planned on running a 10,000 m race in New Zealand. However, after the race was cancelled due to the Christchurch earthquake and damage done to the track, they entered the half-marathon in New York.
On 3 June 2011, at a Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon, Farah won the Prefontaine Classic's 10,000 m event in 26:46.57, setting a new British and European record. On 22 July 2011, at a Diamond League meeting in Monaco, he set a new British national record in the 5000 m with a time of 12:53.11. Farah edged out American Bernard Lagat to win the race.
In the 2011 World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea, Farah made a major breakthrough on the world stage by taking the silver medal in the 10,000 m and then the gold in the 5000 m. He became the first British man to win a World Championships medal over either distance. Farah had in fact been more strongly favored to take the 10,000 m title, but was narrowly beaten in a last lap sprint by Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan. In the 5000 m, he overcame Lagat, beating him into second place. Following the race, Dave Moorcroft, former 5000 metres world record holder, hailed Farah as "the greatest male distance runner that Britain has ever seen".
2012: Double Olympic champion
At the London 2012 Olympics, on 4 August, Farah won the 10,000 m gold in a time of 27:30.42. This was Great Britain's first Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 m, and came after two other gold medals for the country in the same athletics session. His training partner, Galen Rupp of the United States, took second place. Both runners are coached by Alberto Salazar. Farah stated that he would observe his Ramadan fast later in the year. On 11 August 2012, Farah made it a long-distance double, winning the 5000 metres in a time of 13:41.66. The noise from the crowd in the 5,000 m race was so loud it made the camera shake and distorted the photo-finish image. He dedicated the two golds to his twin daughters.
On 23 August 2012, Farah returned to the track at a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, where he capped off a winning season with another victory over a distance of two miles (3.2 km).
Following his 2012 successes, Farah was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to athletics. The move was met with anger by many in the general public, including erstwhile Minister of Sports Gerry Sutcliffe, who felt that Farah instead deserved a higher accolade. Farah's former physical education teacher Alan Watkinson similarly indicated that he was disappointed that Farah was not knighted and that the decision "discredits the system although it's still a fantastic achievement for Mo and well deserved." However, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg cited Farah's Olympic double gold win in his 2013 New Year's message and 2012 Autumn conference, and David Cameron on August 2013 expressed support for a knighthood for Mo Farah.
2013: 1500 m record and world medals
On 19 July 2013, at the Herculis meeting in Monaco, Farah broke the European 1500 m record with a time of 3:28.81. The feat rendered him the sixth fastest man ever over the distance, overtaking Steve Cram's 28-year-old British record and Fermín Cacho's 16-year-old European record. It also made Farah the seventh man, behind Saïd Aouita, Daniel Komen, Ali Saïdi-Sief, Hicham El Guerrouj, Augustine Kiprono Choge and Bernard Lagat to break both the 3:30 barrier in the 1500 metres and the 13-minute barrier in the 5000 metres. More remarkably, it made Farah the only athlete in history to run sub 3:30, sub 13-minute and sub 27-minute for 1500 metres, 5000 metres and 10,000 metres respectively. Additionally he has a sub 1 hour run in the half-marathon.
The following month, Farah won the London Diamond League Anniversary Games' 3000 metres event in a time of seven minutes and 36.85 seconds. He twice broke the national record in the half-marathon, first on 24 February in New Orleans, then broke his own record on 15 September in the Bupa Great North run.
On 10 August 2013, Farah held off a run by Ibrahim Jeilan to win the 10,000 m event at the World Championships in Moscow. The victory was his fourth global title. On 16 August 2013, Farah won the 5,000 m event, in the process becoming double world and Olympic champion. After this victory, BBC commentator Brendan Foster and Sebastian Coe called Farah 'Britain's greatest ever athlete'. Farah became only the second man in history to win a long-distance titles at successive editions of the Olympics and World Championships, after Kenenisa Bekele's 2008–09 feat. He was the first British athlete to win two individual gold medals at a World Championships.
In December 2013, Farah was the second favourite sportsperson behind Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray to become the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Asked what drives him to keep pushing back the boundaries of athletic accomplishment, he noted sprinter Usain Bolt's record breaking streak as a motivating example of what's possible for all dedicated athletes.
Farah was a finalist for the 2013 IAAF World Athlete of the year award. In preparation for his marathon debut, he also extended his training schedule to 120 miles a week.
2014: Double gold in Zürich
Farah began 2014 preparing for the year's London Marathon, his first such run. He described running the event as a longstanding ambition of his, particularly to do so in London. Farah finished in eighth place in a time of 2:08.21. This was outside Steve Jones' GB record, but set a new English national record.
Farah was due to compete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. However, he withdrew due to illness from a stomach ailment and an infection caused from having a tooth removed. Farah later appeared in Zürich at the 2014 European Athletics Championships. He successfully defended his 5000 m title and won a gold in the 10,000 m, thus completing another major championship double. This made him the most successful individual in the history of the European Athletics Championships, with five titles to his name.
On 7 September 2014, Farah competed in the Great North Run, a British half marathon. He won the race with a personal best time of 1:00:00, exactly 1 hour.
2015: World and European records
On 22 March 2015, Farah broke the European record for half marathon in Lisbon. He ran a time of 59 minutes, 32 seconds, 20 seconds, surpassing the record set 14 years previously by Spain's Fabián Roncero.
He repeated his long-distance gold medal double at the 2015 World Championships in Athletics. His seven global titles are four more than any other British athlete (Daley Thompson, Jonathan Edwards, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Christine Ohurougu have three each). In winning the 10,000 m he became the oldest ever global winner at the event at age 32.
2016: Double-Double Olympic Golds at Rio
On 26 March, Farah finished a close third in the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, finishing in 59:59, behind two Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor (59:10) and Bedan Karoki (59:36), barely beating out Abayneh Ayele in a sprint for third in 59:59. On 5 June 2016, Farah broke the 34-year old British 3000 meter record set by Moorcroft, which was set before he was born.
On 13 August, Farah won a gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the Rio Olympics. After being accidentally clipped on the back of the heel by American training partner Galen Rupp on the 10th lap he fell, but went on to win gold with the time of 27:05.17. Rupp slowed after Farah's fall to check his condition and finished in 5th place with a time of 27:08.92. In the final lap Farah battled Paul Tanui, who took the lead with 300 metres remaining. Farah edged him out with 100 metres to go. Tanui finished in second place with a time of 27:05.64.
On 20 August, Farah went on to double his gold in the 5,000 metres at the Rio Olympics. Coming into the 31st Olympiad, Farah's eyes were set on doubling his gold in the 10,000 metres and 5,000 metres from the London Olympics. Farah held off the lead he had set and finished with a time of 13.03.30. In September 2016, he won the Great North Run for a record third consecutive year.
His running style has been described as "bouncy" and tactical, which he has attempted to alter for a more efficient and energy-saving stride pattern, especially in the longer distances. Farah runs distance races tactically, but also maintains a fast yet tactical pace and has a quick sprint finish.
"Mobot" signature pose
Farah is noted for his unique victory celebration dance known as the "Mobot". He adopted the move following a television appearance in May 2012 opposite sports presenter Clare Balding, on the panel game show A League of Their Own. The host James Corden suggested to the panelists that they should think of a new dance to mark Farah's winning celebration, and Balding subsequently came up with the "M" gesture called "Mobot". While demonstrating it for the first time, she indicated that the part of the move intended to represent the "M" in "Mo" was inspired by the dance to "Y.M.C.A.", a popular song by the Village People. Corden himself then named it as the "Mobot". A robot was named "Mobot" at a university research exhibition, in honour of Farah's celebration. Farah has since used the pose as part of a charity to raise funds for his foundation. Virgin Media has promised to donate £2 for every YouTube video that is uploaded with someone doing the mobot.
Family and interests
Farah has a twin brother, Hassan, who lives in Somalia. They were separated at eight years old, when Mo, his two younger brothers, and his mother joined their father who had been working and studying in the UK; however, Hassan was unwell and unable to travel, so stayed behind with family in Djibouti. When Farah's father returned to collect Hassan, the family he was living with had moved and couldn't be found. Farah and his twin ended up being separated for twelve years. Hassan is now a telecoms engineer with a wife and five children. Farah has a third younger brother who was also born after the family's move to London.
In April 2010, Farah married his longtime girlfriend Tania Nell in Richmond, London. Other athletes at the wedding included Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram, Hayley Yelling, Jo Pavey, Mustafa Mohamed and Scott Overall, who was an usher. Farah has a stepdaughter named Rihanna from this relationship. He and his wife have twin daughters called Aisha and Amani, born in August 2012. In 2015, Farah and Nell had a son called Hussein.
Farah is a devout Muslim, and is an active supporter of the Muslim Writers Awards. Islam is an important part of his preparation: "I normally pray before a race, I read dua [Islamic prayers or invocations], think about how hard I've worked and just go for it." He notes that "the Qur'an says that you must work hard in whatever you do, so I work hard in training and that's got a lot to do with being successful. [It] doesn't just come overnight, you've got to train for it and believe in yourself; that's the most important thing." An RISSC publication named Mo Farah as among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in 2013.
Farah is also a fan of Arsenal F.C., and has trained with its first team squad. He has indicated a desire to become a fitness coach for the club once he retires so as to improve its conditioning record. In October 2013, he launched a book titled Mo Farah, Twin Ambitions: My autobiography in Canary Wharf, London.
Farah has a large following on social media. This includes roughly 1 million followers on Twitter and 400,000 on Facebook. In 2013, he was the top-ranked query for a sportsperson on the search engine Microsoft UK Bing who was not a footballer.
As of January 2014, Farah's main place of residence is Portland, Oregon, USA where he and his wife and daughters have a home.
Farah is additionally involved in various philanthropic initiatives, launching the Mo Farah Foundation after a trip to Somalia in 2011. The following year, he participated in ITV's The Cube and won £250,000 for his foundation, becoming the first person ever to win the top prize on the show. Along with other high-profile athletes, Farah later took part in the 2012 Olympic hunger summit at 10 Downing Street hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron, part of a series of international efforts which have sought to respond to the return of hunger as a high-profile global issue.
Olympic memorabilia featuring and signed by Farah has also been auctioned off to raise funds for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). In 2013, he likewise joined legislators and activists in a campaign urging Barclays Bank to repeal its decision to withdraw from the UK remittance market. Farah often used the money transfer operators to send remittances to family, and some of the world's largest organizations and charities, including the UN and his own foundation, likewise paid staff and channeled funds through these services. In March 2013, Farah, singer Robbie Williams, and a number of other celebrities also urged Chancellor George Osborne to clamp down on global corporations that avoid paying taxes in poor countries in which they operate.
Endorsements, advertising and sponsorships
Farah has endorsement deals with a number of companies, including PACE Sports Management, Nike, Lucozade, Quorn, Bupa and Virgin Media. He is expected to earn roughly £10 million in advertising and sponsorships besides making roughly £250,000 – £450,000 during exhibitions, and promoting "Brand Mo" with the management firm Octagen. His work with Nike Inc. includes training at the Nike Oregon Project and marketing of clothing and shoes. In order to better preserve his earnings after taxes, Farah also applied in 2013 to have his main place of residence changed to Portland, where he spends most of the year training.
In December 2013, Farah signed a marketing deal with Quorn, part of a multimillion-pound campaign aimed at doubling the firm's sales. He led television advertisements for Quorn's vegetarian forms of protein, with the campaign scheduled to last throughout the following year.
In 2012–2013, Farah intimated that he had been stopped a number of times by U.S. Customs officials under suspicion of being a terrorist, which he attributed to confusion between his full name "Mohamed" and a computerized check-in process. On one occasion after the 2012 Olympics, he asserted that he had attempted to prove his identity by showing his Olympic gold medals to customs officials, but that this was not accepted.
In summer 2015, Farah provided a public blood test in an effort to dispel concerns following various events including pictures posted by Hamza Driouch, who is banned from competing for doping violations, to Facebook which showed him training with Farah. Farah was seen running directly in front of Driouch during a training session. Management for Mo Farah suggested, however, that the training session was merely Farah employing local athletes to pace him and that he does not have any control over who joins in the training session. Hamza Driouch has been officially banned from attending training sessions in any capacity for two years from 31 December 2014. In June 2015, in a BBC Panorama documentary, it was alleged that Farah's coach Alberto Salazar was guilty of doping offences at the Nike Oregon Project. The programme did not accuse Farah of any wrongdoing. On 6 June 2015 Farah held a press conference in which he expressed his anger that his name was "being dragged through mud". He withdrew from a 1500 metres event at the Birmingham Diamond League race on 7 June, describing himself as "emotionally and physically drained". Farah said he had been told by Salazar he was not involved in Mary Slaney's career at the time she tested positive for testosterone but this version of Salazar's history has been challenged.
Awards and honours
- 2006 British Athletics Writers' Association Award
- 2010 British Athletics Writers' Association Award
- 2010 Best Senior Athlete of 2010 (UK Aviva Athletics Awards)
- 2010 London Youth Games Hall of Fame
- 2011 British Athletics Writers' Association Award
- 2011 European Athlete of the Year
- 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, 3rd place
- 2011 Athletics Weekly International Male Athlete
- 2012 British Athletics Writers' Association Award
- 2012 European Athlete of the Year
- 2012 Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year, nominee
- 2012 Athletics Weekly International Male Athlete
- 2013 IAAF World Athlete of the Year, finalist
- 2013 British Athletics Writers' Association Award
- 2013 Athletics Weekly International Male Athlete
- 2013 Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year, nominee
- 2013 British Olympic Association Olympic athlete of the year
- 2013 AIPS Europe Sportsmen of the Year – Frank Taylor Trophy
- 2013 Rodale, Inc., Running Times – Runner of the Year
- 2014 Jesse Owens International Athlete Trophy, nominee
- 2015 World Record, 2 mile run, Birmingham
- Runners World top 50 influential individuals in running
- LetsRun.com number 1 in 2015 year end world ranking for long distance runners
- 2015 fastest men's 10,000 meter runner
- 2013 Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
- 2013 Premier Inn Celebrity Dad of The Year
- 2013 Best at Sport award at the British Muslim Awards
- 6th place, Freuds Heroes Index
- 2014 World's 100 Most Powerful Arabs, Arabian Business
- 2015, clothing firm Rohan's 8th greatest Briton of all time
- 2015 Evening Standard's top 25 most influential Londoners
- 2016 Sports Relief highest polled sporting London hero with 27% of the vote
- 2016, Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Inspirational Athlete.
- British Athletics Championships
- 5000 metres: 2007, 2011
- British Indoor Athletics Championships
- 3000 metres: 2007
- British 10K Championships
- 10K run: 2011, 2012
- British Marathon Championships
- Marathon: 2014
- Diamond League
- Cross country
All information from Association of Road Racing Statisticians.
|Outdoor||800 m||1:48.69||5 August 2003||Eton|
|1500 m||3:28.81 AR||19 July 2013||Monaco|
|One mile||3:56.49||6 August 2005||London|
|2000 m||5:06.34||9 March 2006||Melbourne|
|3000 m||7:32.62 NR||5 June 2016||Birmingham|
|Two miles||8:07.85 AR||24 August 2014||Birmingham|
|5000 m||12:53.11 NR||22 July 2011||Monaco|
|10,000 m||26:45.57 AR||3 June 2011||Eugene|
|Indoor||1500 m||3:39.03||28 January 2012||Glasgow|
|One mile||3:57.92||4 February 2012||Boston|
|3000 m||7:33.1 NR||21 February 2015||Birmingham|
|Two miles||8:03.40 WR||21 February 2015||Birmingham|
|5000 m||13:10.60 AR||19 February 2011||Birmingham|
|Road||10 km||27:44||31 May 2010||London|
|15 km||42:03+ AR||26 March 2016||Cardiff|
|10 miles||46:25||25 October 2009||Portsmouth|
|20 km||56:27 AR||22 March 2015||Lisbon|
|Half marathon||59:23a||13 September 2015||Great North Run|
|59:32 AR||22 March 2015||Lisbon|
|Marathon||2:08:21||13 April 2014||London Marathon|
+ intermediate split in longer race
a = aided road course according to IAAF rule 260.28