Old pals Farah and Rupp now ‘rivals, for sure’ in marathon
The four-time Olympic champion will vie for glory against his ex-training partner in Chicago
The respect remains, but the camaraderie so evident in the past is long gone. Where once Mo Farah and Galen Rupp would train and hang out together in equal measure, now their fleeting encounters are restricted to hotel lobbies or – for the first time in more than two years here today – on the start line.
Both parties insist it is just the way of the world, a natural parting of ways that comes with changing circumstances. But when asked whether his former training partner is a friend or rival, it is telling that Farah does not miss a beat when replying: “Rivals, for sure.”
Standing together on the Chicago Marathon start line, it will be more than six years since the pair embraced after memorably ending Africa’s recent monopoly of Olympic 10,000 metre medals with an Alberto Salazar-trained one-two at London 2012 – years during which their lives have changed irrevocably.
Farah, now a four-time Olympic champion, left Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project last year after calling time on his track career and lives in London, working under the tutelage of Gary Lough, Paula Radcliffe’s husband and coach.
Farah always insisted the move had nothing to do with the doping investigation into Salazar’s practices and maintains he has no regrets over his initial decision to stick with the controversial American coach after allegations first surfaced. After all, Salazar – who denies the claims – was the man who turned him into a world-beater, while simultaneously propelling Rupp on to his heels.
Sitting in a hotel boardroom, preparing to pound the likely rainsodden Chicago streets today, that dual success seems a world away. “It’s moved on now, hasn’t it?” Farah says.
An absence of gushing praise is notable when Farah talks about the men who used to be his closest confidantes in Oregon and he admits he rarely speaks to either Salazar or Rupp nowadays. Nonetheless, he insists there is no animosity.
“I’m grateful for what [Salazar] has done for me over the years and there is a lot of respect, but at the same time my life has changed,” he says. “Over the years, we got on well. Obviously Alberto and Galen, having worked with me for six years, we worked hard.
“But at the same time, in your career, sometimes you have to make a move and that’s what I’ve done. Going to the marathon means I’ve got to race Galen now.
“I know how hard he works. And to be honest with you, I’m not hiding it. In some sessions, he would beat me. Longer sessions, longer runs – he would drop me. So I know his strengths and that will help me in the race. I know Galen wants to beat me and I want to beat Galen.”
On paper, at least, there is no comparison. In the 22 races the two have contested against each other, Farah has been victorious 21 times, with his only defeat coming when he fell in a one-mile race in 2012.
“He got tripped, and that was the only reason I beat him, so you can put a little asterisk by that one,” says Rupp, graciously.
Regardless of his track dominance, Farah finds himself in a strange position ahead of today’s race, which will be the third marathon of his career and first outside London.
As one of the most decorated long-distance runners of all time, he justifiably has top billing alongside Rupp, who triumphed last year, and organisers will doubtless be hoping the former friends are left battling it out for victory at the end of the 26.2 miles, having splashed out the biggest fees to secure their participation.
Yet Farah’s personal best ranks him just eighth in the field, and the fear factor he possessed on the track for much of the past decade is absent.
“I haven’t done anything yet to be scared of,” he admits. “On the track, I had a target on my back, but here it’s different.”
His personal best of 2hr 6min 21sec, set in London this year, means he sits beneath a host of relatively unknown Kenyans and Ethiopians hoping to triumph in the Windy City. Indeed, at the age of 35, Farah remains a young pup in the marathon game – a runner feeling his way over the distance and working out how best to approach it as he embarks on a mission to make world and Olympic podiums over the next two years.
“I think it is about being in more fights and knowing how other people fight,” he says of his quest to gain experience.
Of course, the truth is that Farah does not really need to put himself through this any more. With a haul that includes eight world medals to go with his four Olympic titles, and a bank balance bulging with the millions that come with being Britain’s most successful athlete, he could quite easily have called time on his competitive career when he retired from the track last summer.
Certainly, he need not have put himself at risk of suffering the kind of freak injury sustained over the summer. Farah revealed how he was attacked by a dog while running in St Moritz, Switzerland, and bitten on the backside. “I was so mad that when I went back to the house I was like, ‘A dog’s just bitten me, let’s go find this guy.’ I wanted to find him and call the police, but I couldn’t find him.” Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt and needed only injections as treatment.
Today, with rain forecast, Farah will attempt to prove himself once again, to embark on the final stage of his athletics career, to show his old coach he was right to turn his back on him and to continue his battle with his friend turned foe.
‘I know his strengths, and that will help me. He wants to beat me, I want to beat him’
New career path: Mo Farah in preparation yesterday for today’s Chicago Marathon in which he faces former training partner Galen Rupp, who finished runner-up to Farah in the 10,000 metres at the London Olympics in 2012 (above left)