Mo Farah: ‘If you work hard, you get rewarded’
Mo Farah, British distance running champion, discussed the highs of double-gold medal success, the importance of family and his love of a good cheeseburger in the July 2013 issue of Healthy.
Life lessons with Mo Farah
What’s your favourite expression?
It has to be ‘go hard or go home’. That was certainly relevant when I was at the Olympics, and that mentality would have been true for 99 per cent of the competitors. Either give it absolutely everything you have in the tank, or get the hell out of there!
What or who makes you laugh?
First of all, like most people, I love stand-up – there are some brilliant comedians out there, like Peter Kay, Lee Mack and Russell Howard. There’s also a dark side to the comedy I like – maybe it’s because I’m a runner and my job is to stay on my feet, but I’ve always found people falling over pretty funny… apart from when it happens to me, of course.
What makes you cry?
Anytime I see my kids get upset [Mo Farah has a son Hussein, 1, twin daughters Aisha and Amani, 4, and step-daughter Rihanna, 11] – that makes me tear up a little. I want to protect them at every turn and sometimes I just can’t because of my schedule.
What’s your health mantra?
It’s not as brutal as some athletes – it’s ‘eat normally, but healthily’. People get hung up on diet, but an athlete will always be able to burn off whatever is necessary. Even on an amateur level, staying in shape is as much about exercising as it is eating, so it’s all about finding that balance.
What does money buy?
It buys comfort and security, and that’s about it. It’s worth having – I’m not one of those people who says you don’t need money, because that’s not true – but it’s not a direct route to happiness.
Are you romantic?
You’d be better off asking my wife, Tania, that one! The last romantic thing I did was take my wife out for a candlelit dinner. I’m an old-fashioned romantic in that way. I don’t go for big surprise gestures, although as I’m saying this, I’m thinking maybe I should…
What makes you happy?
My family. When they’re happy, I’m happy. There is nothing else I care about, not even medals. And being healthy is a big thing as well. You cannot put a price on that feeling you get when you have just had a good run or a decent workout. Similarly, when you ignore the chocolate and eat fruit instead. Being happy is about being healthy and ensuring that those around you are content. I think we’re pretty simple creatures like that.
What is your first memory?
That would be playing football when I was three. As a lad, I always wanted to grow up to play for Arsenal. Failed!
Who do you most admire and why?
Paula Radcliffe has been the biggest inspiration for me. It’s really surprising how many athletes also share an admiration for her and what she achieved. Also, she has offered me some fantastic words of advice and encouragement along the way. I’ve banked everything she’s said.
What is the character trait you like the best in yourself?
I really believe in honesty, fairness and friendship. You should offer that to other people anyway, but when it comes to you first you must always pay it back any way you can. The Olympic village [in London 2012] was incredible for meeting people who, like you, had dedicated so much to achieving their goals, and there was such a mutual respect for one another, even though many of us were rivals. It was really special and so memorable.
And in others?
Patience, I guess. I’m always in a hurry, so it’d be nice to take the more relaxed view that a lot of other people have. I’m still working on that one.
What’s been your biggest disappointment?
I’ve been lucky all round; nothing has ever crushed me with disappointment. I’m pretty optimistic – an impatient optimist!
What would be your last supper?
That would be a cheeseburger. A cheeseburger, with all the extra stuff, was one of the first things I thought of after I won my second gold at London 2012. It was the feeling of absolute relief and the idea of looking forward to something. For me, that was having a break, sharing the success with my family, and having a cheeseburger!
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
If you work hard, you get rewarded. That’s what I will teach my children. I think that’s the vital life lesson that we should all try to live by. If you don’t want to put the effort in, then fine, but you can’t then complain if you don’t feel you’re getting the most out of life.