Farah's London 'Iten'erary!

Farah's London 'Iten'erary!

British athletics coach George Gandy looked on with approval as Mo Farah ran a warm-up lap around a dusty, dirt track in Iten, a tiny Kenyan highland town.

The backdrop of rolling hills and small farming plots may suggest otherwise but the banner welcoming visitors to the 'Home of Champions' is no exaggeration.

Iten has a big reputation in the running world and Somali-born Farah, the world and European 5,000 metres champion and favourite for 10,000 metres gold at his home London Olympics in six months' time, has been making the most of it.

Gandy, who has coached top athletes such as Sebastian Coe, Paula Radcliffe and Lisa
Dobriskey and is priming Britain's distance runners ahead of the London Olympics, knows what a talent he is dealing with.

"I saw him when he was back running with boys and youths," the endurance coach, appointed by UK Athletics in 2009, told Reuters at the high-altitude camp famed for grooming Kenyan champions. "I remember him winning the national cross-country championships as a junior."

"He always looked like he had a lot of talent. He was the smooth mover at the time and really most impressive in his age group," added Gandy, wrapping up a session of interval training.

"He is going in as one of the top favourites, if not the favourite."
Clusters of sinewy elite Kenyan runners dashed past as Gandy explained what training in the town 8,000 feet above sea level had contributed to Farah's success.

"This is where it's at. These people around here are phenomenal, inspirational people," he said. "The best runners in the world train here... and I think Mo has benefited from doing that over quite a few years."

Farah is Britain's top-ranked distance runner, setting national and European middle distance running records in 2011 and capping it off with a double-medal performance at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

His coach, Alberto Salazar, guides him in his training regime by email and Skype from Oregon in the United States but Gandy said he and the rest of the national team supported Farah while he trains in Kenya.

Moving through his warm-up, Farah appeared relaxed in a thin blue training top, rolling his head side to side and skip-jumping with high knees while listening to music in his headphones. On his agenda this weekend is a meet in Glasgow, but his sights are already set on London. "I don't think we can take anything for granted, there are some other great runners around as well and you have to beware that people pop out of the woodwork a little bit, and people train a bit harder," said Gandy.

After warming up, Farah set off on a series of sprints, running alongside the British team and scores of Kenyans.

Clusters of lean, muscled athletes circled the track in high performance gear, their shoes touching down rhythmically on the circuit bordered by low dirt mounds and a small stand.
"I'm really excited because the Olympics doesn't come around often and it's right on our doorstep," Farah said.

London will be Farah's second shot at the world's largest sporting event after being knocked out before the final round in the 5,000 metres in Beijing.

With nearly four more years experience under his belt, the 28-year-old is looking to carry the momentum over from the world championships. "I'll just do the same as in Daegu, but it just depends on how I feel... obviously the 10 comes before the five," he said.

"Anything can happen, you just need to stay injury free, stay focused."

Sheltering under the shade of a tree bordering the track, Gandy agreed. "Most people in Britain involved in athletics, or who enjoy athletics, are very excited by the progress that Mo has made... you can't help but get extremely excited, even now," he said. "The important thing is not to get too excited, because we've still got a few months to go yet."