Sir Mo Farah: A Champion’s Farewell

On a crisp Sunday morning in Newcastle, the city’s streets came alive with the excitement of the Great North Run. This iconic half-marathon, beloved by runners and fans alike, had a special aura on this particular day. It marked the final lap of an illustrious career, a career that had seen Sir Mo Farah rise to the pinnacle of distance running, securing his place in the annals of sporting history.

Sir Mo Farah’s journey from a young boy in Somalia to a British sporting legend was a testament to talent, dedication, and the unwavering pursuit of excellence. His remarkable story had captured the hearts of a nation, and the Great North Run was about to witness the closing chapter of this extraordinary tale.

Mo Farath’s last race, photo by Maragarita Hope

To understand the significance of this moment, one must journey back to the summer of 2012. The London Olympics provided the grand stage, and Farah seized the opportunity to etch his name in history. With the world watching, he delivered an astonishing double victory in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. The iconic scenes of him crossing the finish line, arms outstretched in the now-famous “Mobot” pose, became emblematic of his triumph and the joy of a nation.

“I look back and think: wow, how did we do that?” he reflected. There were further Olympian heights scaled in Rio four years later. Farah had built an uncanny way of wearing down his rivals with his mind games, and the Ethiopians and Kenyans became fed up with him.

Yet, his Olympic feats were just a part of his extraordinary legacy. Farah’s illustrious career spanned a multitude of world titles, his name synonymous with domination on the track. The World Championships became his playground, and he claimed an impressive tally of medals, both gold and silver, proving himself as the man to beat in the long-distance events. No British athlete has come close to his roll of honor, with 17 major titles on the track and national records ranging from 1500m up to the marathon.

Mo Farath’s last race, #2, photo by Maragarita Hope

But as the years passed, Farah decided to embark on a new challenge, transitioning to road racing and the marathon. The marathon was a different beast, demanding a fresh set of skills and strategies. Farah encountered setbacks and faced formidable competition, but his tenacity remained unshaken.

In 2018, he triumphed at the Chicago Marathon, setting a new British record and reaffirming his prowess in the sport. The marathon victories were not without hurdles, but Farah’s determination was unwavering.

And so, at the Great North Run, the stage was set for the final act. Dressed in the familiar British kit, Sir Mo Farah embarked on his last competitive journey over 13.1 miles. The Great North Run had witnessed countless iconic moments in his career, but this time, it would bear witness to his farewell.

Mo Farah, after his 8th place in European Cup/British Olympic Trials 10,000m, 27:50.60, photo by British Athletics

The race itself was a grueling battle. As he navigated the streets of Newcastle, South Shields looming on the horizon, Farah was not only pitted against his fellow competitors but also against the weight of his own legacy. In the end, the 40-year-old was unable to stand on one last podium, placing fourth in the Great North Run, an event he has won a record six times.

But while Farah admitted to being disappointed at the result, he was happy it meant he could now hang up his running shoes, channeling his inner Steve Redgrave as he said: ‘If you see me running again, you’ve got the right to get rid of me.’

Mo Farah with David Bedford, former London Marathon impresario, WR holder of 10k, and unofficial spokesperson for Guiness, photo by Jane Monti, 2013, used with permission

“With the old Mo,” he reflected, “nobody would be able to get that gap. I’m not a machine. Your body can’t quite do it. I’m being honest in saying if I can’t be the best in the world and mixing it with these guys, why are you just doing it. So it’s been an amazing career. But it’s really important that, at some point, you know when to call it a day.”

Sir Mo Farah’s legacy transcends medals and records. It is a legacy of resilience, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of greatness. His impact on British athletics is immeasurable, inspiring countless young athletes to reach for the stars.

As the sun set on his competitive career at the Great North Run, Sir Mo Farah left behind a trail of indelible moments and a nation forever grateful for the pride and joy he had brought. Though his racing days may be over, his legacy will continue to shine brightly, illuminating the path for generations of athletes to follow in his illustrious footsteps.

For further reading: Mo Farah, the photographer:

Larry Eder and Brian Eder, Newcastle, England, photo by Mo Farah, circa September 2015