Run, Mo, Run!
Rrrrriiinnngggg, rrrriiiiinnngggggg, rrrrrriiiiiiiing. My alarm blares on. Please, be 5:00 and not 6:00, I think to myself, I just wanna’ sleep for another hour. I check the clock. 5:55 sharp. “Well, looks like that's not gonna’ happen,” I mumble under my breath. I don’t know how, but I manage to roll myself out of bed and look out my window. It’s a beautiful Monday morning in Portland, Oregon, and the sun is rising like high tide out across the mountains of Canada further away. I’m excited, yet terrified for today. Today is the first of my two-month long training cycle that will last up until April. That’s when all this training can pay off when I go for the win in the Boston marathon. Winning in that race is stressful enough, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. “Mornin’ Mo,” my training partner and fellow competitor, Galen mumbles to me from the bed across the room.
“You ready for today?” I ask.
“As long as Alberto’s ready to scream at us non-stop to pick up the pace, I’m ready,” he answers jokingly. We laugh. For as long as I can remember, running had been my life, but I never thought it would turn into a career. Never did I think this would have meant winning marathons, or earning gold medals, or even being knighted by the Queen of England herself. But here I am, a professional runner. Mo Farah, “the world’s greatest distance runner”. My mindset is to eat, train, recover, and sleep. My goal is not to become the best in the country, nor is it to become the best in my training group. My goal, and only desire now is to be the best in the world. I’m a part of the Nike Oregon Project, a training program only for the top distance runners in the world (not to brag, or anything). This program will push me and other runners to our limit, and condition us to be the best runners that we can be. Of course, it's also to promote Nike running apparel, but there’s no need for the public to know that.
Galen and I pack our bags with our sneakers, water bottles, food, and extra clothes. We get dressed and head out to the track for our first session. As we reach the track, it is damp from the morning dew, just like the streets of Britain after a rainstorm that I know all too well. What’s new for us is the high altitude. It makes it harder to breathe when we run. Thus, we must push harder. My only motivation for this is that once we get back down to sea level, it’ll only become more comfortable for us to run just as fast. “Quiet morning out here in isolation,” Alberto says as he approaches us from behind, “You boys ready to go?”
“Yeah, we’re ready,” we both reply in unison.
“Seems like you two are bonding already,” he says sarcastically, “Now, today is just gonna’ be something for me to see how speedy you guys really are. You’ll do a mile warmup around the track, stretch a little, then we’ll do some sprints.”
“So no fifteen mile run yet?” I ask jokingly.
“As long as you keep up that sarcasm, those runs will be for twenty miles,” he replies more seriously, “So let’s start this warmup now, hotshot.” His seriousness is a bit of a shock, but I should expect that from him. With as much as he’s getting paid to train us, I shouldn’t be surprised at all that he’s going to be hard on us. We start the warm-up, stretch for a while and come back to him for the instructions on what to do for the workout. He explains everything to us, and as we start, Alberto mumbles under his breath, “This is gonna’ be fun.”
Fast forward this to the last sprint of the workout. So this is what hell truly feels like, I think to myself. When Alberto explained our workout to us before we began, it sounded so difficult that I almost threw up simply listening to it. Galen and I simply looked at each other, and said nothing. No matter how fast the two of us were, we knew this workout was meant to push us to our limits. My predictions were wrong. This running wasn’t pushing me to my limit; this was driving far past it. I can’t breathe. Sweat drips down my soaking wet shirt like a waterfall of pain and fatigue. Alberto approaches us, this time asking the same question as he did at the beginning of the workout: “You guys ready?” This time, I’m not eager to answer, simply nodding my head in pain. We walk up to the line. Running a full lap on the track in under sixty seconds is the only standing between me and a refreshing ice bath (which is MUCH better than it sounds). Alberto counts down: “On your marks... get set... go!” We are off.
I take the inside, and Galen trails behind. Running beside me will only cause him to cover more distance than he needs to, which will only increase his pain. As we come around the first bend, my vision blurs, but instead of passing out, I picture something around me. A stadium. I see the Olympic rings displayed on a podium. I hear cheering fans. I feel the track below my feet, and I taste the warm air of Rio. “Go, Mo! Go, Mo! Go, Mo!!” fans scream. I look beside me, and I only see the fans. I look down, and I only see the running jersey I am wearing that displays the British flag of my home country. I can smell the sweat of the only competitor still ahead of me. As we turn the final curve, this smell becomes distant as I pass him and reach for the finish line. All it takes is five more, four more, three more steps. Two more. One more. I scream in pain and agony. I reach for the finish line. I cross and collapse. It is over. I am the champion. I look above me, and see Galen smiling, as he has come in second. We have done it. We have become the great--- “Mo, can you hear me? Are you alright?” Galen leans over me, and the Olympic stadium of Rio around me slowly turns back to the training track of Oregon.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reply in pain, “Did we finish?”
“Oh, you finished alright,” Alberto replies from above me as I lay on the track, “That was quite impressive, Mo. I gotta’ give that to you.”
“Go figure,” I answer comically.
“Very funny,” he says, “Now since you guys are done, you can rest for as long as you want and head over to the facility for some post-run stretching and ice baths.”
I went to bed early that night, for we had hard training the next morning. I couldn’t fall asleep, all I could do was think back to that visualization I had during the workout. It was of my first Olympic win back in 2016 at Rio. When I crossed that finish line, I realized something for the first time. When I run for my career, it is not because I hate office jobs. It is not because I enjoy the money and fame, and it is not because I simply do not want to have to work harder in another field. When I become a professional runner, running becomes more than just an activity or sport. When I train hard, work tirelessly, and push through more pain than I can imagine, it is because when I cross that finish line, I realize my true passion. This passion is running, and this running is my life.
Run, Mo, Run!
Run, Mo, Run!