Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -



YOU KNOW you’ve made it when the whole na­tion can col­lec­tively dis­pense with your sur­name: Da­ley, Paula, Jess... Mo’s as­cen­sion to this ex­alted ech­e­lon of UK sports stars has come about thanks to the well-doc­u­mented vic­to­ries that have made the 33-year-old Bri­tain’s most suc­cess­ful track ath­lete of all time.

His stun­ning tri­umphs in Rio made him a dou­ble World and Olympic Cham­pion over both 5000m and 10,000m; he is the undis­puted cur­rent king of dis­tance run­ning, but that’s only part of the rea­son we have cho­sen to pay homage here.

Those beau­ti­fully ex­e­cuted wins may have looked like the in­evitable spoils com­ing to an ath­lete blessed with a supreme gift, but it’s only when you look deeper and be­gin to ex­am­ine what it took for him not only to reach these strato­spheric heights but to stay at the top that you re­ally get the mea­sure of this re­mark­able man. What makes Mo a true hero is not his el­e­gant stride or his bru­tal fin­ish­ing kick, but the in­domitable fight­ing spirit that have shaped them and him.

Since com­ing to Eng­land from So­ma­lia at the age of eight, Mo has had to fight. Over­com­ing play­ground bul­lies, strug­gling first to learn the lan­guage and later, as a young ath­lete, to make ends meet in his cho­sen vo­ca­tion. In his early 20s he strug­gled to un­lock his po­ten­tial, some­thing which he wor­ried was hav­ing a di­rect ef­fect on the wel­fare of his fam­ily. Ath­let­ics of­fers noth­ing like the riches of, say, foot­ball and a pe­riod of (rel­a­tive) medi­ocrity be­tween 2008 and 2011 meant spon­sor­ship deals were jeop­ar­dised, bonus deals re­tracted and pay cuts suf­fered. So Mo moved his wife and stepchild (the cou­ple later had three chil­dren together) to the other side of the world and the Nike Project in Oregon, US, where he set about turn­ing him­self from the guy who faded down the home straight, to the seem­ingly un­beat­able megas­tar we saw tri­umph yet again in Rio. Train­ing twice a day six times a week; clock­ing up to 130 weekly miles in­ter­spersed with in­tense strength, con­di­tion­ing and flex­i­bil­ity ses­sions in the gym, run­ning in the howl­ing wind, the lash­ing rain, the cold and dark of win­ter, when the rest of us start spend­ing a lot more qual­ity time with Net­flix.

In the sec­ond half of 2015 and into last year Mo was caught up in the dop­ing scan­dal that swept through track and field, all be­cause of his as­so­ci­a­tion with coach Al­berto Salazar, whose meth­ods had come un­der in­tense scru­tiny. In­stead of be­ing able to fo­cus solely on train­ing for the Olympics Farah was forced to spend months fight­ing to de­fend his in­no­cence amid a frenzy of me­dia at­ten­tion. In the midst of, and pos­si­bly be­cause of, this dis­trac­tion, ques­tions were raised over his form and mind­set when he fin­ished a dis­tant third at the World Half Marathon Cham­pi­onships in Cardiff in March, cross­ing the finish line in vis­i­ble distress.

He may have been knocked down, but on the Olympic sta­dium track in Rio, he picked him­self up and fought his way back to be­come the first dis­tance run­ner to win a ‘dou­ble dou­ble’ since the great ‘Fly­ing Finn’ Lasse Viren (who took 5000m and 10,000m gold at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics) and thus ce­ment his place in the pan­theon of mod­ern dis­tance greats along­side Haile Ge­brse­lassie, Paul Ter­gat and Ke­nenisa Bekele. The richly de­served knight­hood may be pend­ing, but in the mean­time we salute you, Sir Mo.


Congo,’ says Mako­robondo “Dee” Salukombo, 28. ‘ Here, peo­ple run to save their lives.’

Since 1996, civil wars have killed nearly six mil­lion peo­ple in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo – more than any other con­flict since the Sec­ond World War. One sur­vey found that more than 1,000 women are raped ev­ery day in the be­lea­guered cen­tral African state, and there are an es­ti­mated 30,000 child sol­diers.

Salukombo and his fam­ily fled their vil­lage of Kirot­she, near the Rwan­dan bor­der, in 2001, and ended up in the United States, where he be­came an All-amer­i­can school cham­pion in cross-coun­try run­ning and on the track.

Salukombo grad­u­ated from univer­sity in 2012 and then started Pro­jec­tkirot­she, a youth run­ning pro­gramme with an ed­u­ca­tional fo­cus; it’s based in his for­mer vil­lage. He raised enough money to send 13,000 text­books, 55 com­put­ers and ath­letic equip­ment to sup­ply the vil­lage’s new com­mu­nity learn­ing cen­tre and run­ning team. Then he re­turned home for the first time, to launch his vi­sion of turn­ing kids into stu­dents and run­ners.

Through do­na­tions, the project – now called the Kirot­she Foun­da­tion – pays their school and higher ed­u­ca­tion ex­penses. In a coun­try where mil­i­tants lure kids with guns and money, ed­u­ca­tion is crit­i­cal, says Salukombo.

The kids, most of whom have been left or­phans by the war, par­tic­i­pate in run­ning groups and com­pete in lo­cal and na­tional events. ‘ By run­ning together, they’re cre­at­ing a fam­ily that most of them never had,’ says Salukombo.

He spent much of last year train­ing with his top run­ners as well as coach­ing them. In Au­gust, he and his best run­ner, 5000m ace Beatrice Ka­muchanga, then 18, went to Rio to rep­re­sent DR Congo in the Olympics. Ka­muchanga didn’t ad­vance out of her heat and Salukombo fin­ished 113th in the marathon (in 2:28:54), but it was be­ing there that mat­tered most, he says. ‘The Games gave the youths the con­fi­dence to be­lieve they can get that first Olympic medal for Congo.’

Salukombo is now back in the US, fundrais­ing and coach­ing his run­ners re­motely. He re­mains de­ter­mined to help as many kids as he can. ‘ Why not use my strength to try to in­spire them?’

IF EVER THERE WAS A STORY that con­firms the re­demp­tive power of run­ning it is surely that of 34-year-old Ben Smith.

Five years ago he was a smok­ing, heavy-drink­ing, over­weight de­pres­sive; on Oc­to­ber 5 last year he com­pleted a record-break­ing 401st marathon in as many days. It marked the end of an ex­tra­or­di­nary jour­ney.

Smith was bul­lied at school, which led to de­pres­sion and two sui­cide at­tempts in adult­hood. Af­ter suf­fer­ing a mini-stroke at the age of 29 and com­ing out as gay, he planned an ad­ven­ture that would raise aware­ness about bul­ly­ing, as well as help­ing him to turn his own life around. The 401 chal­lenge (the401chal­lenge.co.uk), would en­tail run­ning around the UK and, in the process, raising money for two char­i­ties close to Smith’s heart: Stonewall and Kid­scape.

Hav­ing sold his house to fund the chal­lenge and with the con­stant sup­port of a new part­ner, Kyle, who gave up his own job and PHD stud­ies to help out, Smith set off from his home­town of Bris­tol on Septem­ber 1 2015, run­ning self-planned routes dur­ing the week and tak­ing part in of­fi­cial marathons at week­ends, in­clud­ing the Isle of Wight, Bris­tol to Bath, Brighton, Greater Manch­ester, Ed­in­burgh and Lon­don. Along the way he bat­tled in­juries to his spine, knees, heels and shins but was helped by al­most 9,500 peo­ple who had read about the chal­lenge and who turned up to run with him for a leg or two.

Four hun­dred and one days – as well as 10,506 miles, 22 pairs of train­ers, 2.5 mil­lion kcals, 19kg of weight lost and £307,000 of funds raised – later he breasted the tape at a spe­cial event in Bris­tol, where he was greeted by Kyle, his fam­ily and well wish­ers.

Fol­low­ing a three-month ‘cool-down’ pe­riod to bring his body back to nor­mal, Smith con­tin­ues his work – he plans to set up the 401 Foun­da­tion, which will work to build con­fi­dence and self-es­teem in chil­dren.

Salukombo is de­ter­mined to help as many kids in his for­mer home as he can. (In­set) Some of the chil­dren who have ben­e­fited from the Kirot­she Foun­da­tion.

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