The Olympic star was back home in Richmond this month to launch the Richmond Running Festival, coming up September 22
It’s not easy to catch Mo Farah these days. Just ask Ibrahim Jeilan, the Ethiopian left trailing helplessly in his wake, as Britain’s distance dynamo added the 10,000m World Championship title to his brace of Olympic golds.
Time was when Bushy Park was the place to find him; when the future global superstar could pound the leafy avenues in relative anonymity, patiently fanning the flames of a quiet dream.
But that was before: before he left Teddington for a rigorous finishing school on the Pacific Rim; before two sultry August nights changed everything; before the gates of immortality lifted up their heads and running’s king of glory entered in.
Today, if you want Mo Farah, it helps to have a shared history and a plan to fire his imagination. Fortunately, Tom Bedford has both. Son of David Bedford, the former 10,000m world record holder, Tom is Race Director of this month’s inaugural Richmond Running Festival: a fun, family event designed to celebrate the best in running and fitness, aid local charities and showcase the beauties of the borough.
Incorporating the Visit Richmond Half Marathon, the Kew Gardens 10K and the Nike Kids’ Mile, the festival is open to runners of every class and none, with a wealth of other attractions to keep non-runners equally entertained.
Farah, whom Tom has known since he was eight, dropped by Kew Gardens this month en route for Moscow to reveal the half marathon and 10k courses – a suitably swift lap of publicity before accelerating away towards gold.
Not so swift, however, as to outpace The Richmond Magazine. A full interview may have eluded us, but before Britain’s brightest star headed off to shine in the East, there was time for a brief Q&A. Not the most elegant of formats – more egg and spoon race than Golden Mile – but an audience nonetheless with the main man on distance running’s global stage.
Q: What are your fondest memories of living in Richmond borough?
A: Having access to Bushy and Richmond Parks for training. You cannot beat Richmond for running. I’m currently training in Oregon and all my runs are boring compared to here.
Q: Will you return here to live?
A: Oh yes. My family’s life is here. I shall come back and live in a castle!
Q: What is it about the Richmond Running Festival that impresses you?
A: A few things, actually. The Mo Farah Foundation is the official charity, so we share 10% of the entry fees with another great local charity, Shooting Star CHASE. I’ve just launched the Mo Farah Academy to encourage homegrown sporting talent to stay in sport. I only got where I am today through similar foundations offering me technical and financial support, so it’s time to give back to the next generation.
Also, the kids’ mile races. Tom has explained the vision to give these little ones the best day of their life. They will imitate the adults, finish in front of a crowd and get a medal. This is how to get kids started.
Finally, the course. I’ve run every part of this borough except Kew Gardens – it looks amazing!
Q: Super Saturday. What is your principal memory of that famous night?
A: To have three gold medals in 45 mins was incredible. It will never happen again. My overriding memory is of crossing the line and just hearing the crowd that loud. It was like an explosion.
Q: You recently took Steve Cram’s British record at 1500m. How do you excel at such a range of distances?
A: Years of improved training and no injuries means that it’s all coming together. Even three months ago, I didn’t think I could run that fast. Now, in terms of world records, I’m probably closer to the 1500m than anything else. It’s weird, as I’m running the London Marathon next year and I’m excited to see what I can do for that.
Q: Will the latest allegations of drug-enhanced performance by Jamaican sprinters have lasting repercussions for athletics as a whole?
A: At the (London 2012) Anniversary Games, 120,000 spectators came over two days, which proves that people believe in athletics. They have to. You’re not in control of what other people do – only what you do yourself. As a nation, we don’t stand for drug cheats and our testing system is good. Wherever I am in the world, I have to give the testers a one-hour slot in which they can check on me – but I never know which day they’ll turn up. That’s important – and other countries must do the same thing.
Richmond Running Festival, Sept 22