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 Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport - Ben Bloom ATH­LET­ICS COR­RE­SPON­DENT 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)

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