Mo Farah in the mens 5000m final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Moscow, Russia

Farah takes the distance double to rise among the greats

It’s the sort of conversation that will no doubt be the subject of endless debate in British pubs and bars.

Is Mo Farah the greatest British track and field athlete of all time?

After winning the 5000m title at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, to go with his 10,000m win earlier in the week, the question is being asked and the greats of British athletics have already cast their vote.

Two-time Olympic 1500m champion Sebastian Coe says yes, his record now puts him in front of his former number one and close friend, the decathlete Daley Thompson.

World 1500m champion Steve Cram and triple jump world and Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards say no. Farah needs to break world records to stand at the top of the British tree according to both of them.

Of course when champions like Coe, Cram and Edwards speak, everyone listens, but on global titles alone, Farah stands at the top of the tree in British athletics.

With two Olympic titles and now three world crowns, he has captured the past five global golds on offer in the longest events on the track, and it was almost six, losing out in a mad dash to the line in the 10,000m in Daegu two years ago.

He goes past Edwards, hurdler Colin Jackson and 400m runner Christine Ohuruogu who have each collected two world crowns, to become the only British athlete with three World Championship wins in individual events.

Farah becomes just the second athlete to win back-to-back 5000m titles at the World Championships, joining Kenya’s  Ismael Kirui who won in 1993 and 1995, and he joins Ethiopia’s world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele as only athlete to win the 5000m and 10,000m at a single World Championships and to hold the world and Olympic titles at both distances simultaneously.

That is some record, so let the debate begin.

Still time for records, but family might come first

The 30-year-old Briton has three young children: a seven-year-old step daughter Rihanna and twins girls Aisha and Amani, who will celebrate their first birthday next week.

He said after the 10,000m win that he is away so much they don’t recognise him; a sentiment he repeated after claiming his second victory of the championships.

"I was thinking about my kids,” Farah said when asked about what was going through his mind on the victory podium.

There was, in fact, a lot of stuff going through his mind at that moment. “As an athlete you have to train so hard. For me the hardest thing to deal with this year has been being away from my family.”

“I’ve been away four months. In and out and I don’t see them and they don’t recognise me and sometimes as a parent that’s hard. The kids grow so fast and that’s what I was thinking about.”

So maybe family might come first in the future, but Farah’s response to the question of chasing records suggests his priorities are still slightly fuzzy.

“Yes it would be nice to get close to the records. The great athlete Kenenisa Bekele has both of the records and we’ve seen Kenenisa and what he’s capable of when you run that fast.

“So it would be nice to go closer to that but I haven’t tried too much. Since last year, I’ve just been concentrating on the World Championships and winning medals for my country, trying to retain my titles, which I did, but now it gives me time to think about it and try to prepare.”

Fighting win

“It was a great achievement tonight,” reflected Farah. 

Earlier in the race he had a stitch in the stomach and he hoped the pace would be slow. It was and when the pain in his stomach eased he was able to quicken the pace.

“I went to the front to control it and just tried to stay out of trouble,” he explained.

“I was confident from having run a fast 1500m (the European record of 2:28.81 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco last month), and a fast few races towards the end, so even if it came down right to the end I was confident in my speed and being able to come home strong.”

Come home strong he did and as he has done in the past he took the lead with 600m to go but he needed to surge on at least three occasions, scampering around the final lap in 53.5 before finally prevailing.

With no global championship immediately on the horizon for next year, Farah can do what he pleases in 2014, but for now it’s an appointment with Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele over a half marathon at the Great North Run next month.

It’s being billed as the greatest head-to-head half marathon in history.

It could well be a prelude to a marathon debut in London next April, but for the moment, a holiday and time with family will top the agenda.

David Culbert for the IAAF