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Eggers: Farah returns to racing on Lewis & Clark track

by: COURTESY OF MO FARAH - Distance running superstar Mo Farah, who trains in Portland and grew up in London, begins his relatively light 2014 summer schedule with a 5,000-meters run at Sundays Portland Track Festival at Lewis & Clark College.Mo Farah has always been more about winning races than clocking personal bests or setting records.

If ever there were a year to concentrate on the latter pursuits, though, 2014 would be it.

After claiming gold at 5,000 and 10,000 at London in the 2012 Olympic Games and repeating last year at Moscow in the world championships, Portland’s most undercelebrated superstar athlete is entering what is a down summer for those in the track and field business.

With no Olympics or Worlds to contend with, the Somalian-born Farah — who grew up in London from age 8 and lived there before moving to Portland in 2011 — will focus on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, and the European Championships in Zurich, Switzerland.

Farah will begin his season on the track Sunday when he runs a 5K at the Portland Track Festival at Lewis & Clark College.

“We’ll keep things pretty tame,” says Pete Julian, assistant coach for Oregon Nike Project. “We’re looking for probably a 13:30 pace. It’s just an opportunity for him to get the feel of a track race again.”

After that, Farah will train at altitude in Park City, Utah, for a couple of weeks. He’ll also run in an IAAF Diamond League meet in Glasgow on July 12.

Might Farah’s PRs in the 5,000 (12:53.16) and 10,000 (26:46.57) — both set in 2011 — go down this year?

“I don’t know,” says Farah, 31, who ran his best 1,500 (3:28.81) in breaking Steve Cram’s long-standing British record at Monaco last year. “I’m always thinking medals and, after that, trying to think about times. The last three years, it’s been all about trying to win medals rather than run fast times.”

Farah owns no world records. Could this be an opportune year to go for it?

“It depends on if you get in a fast race and what kind of shape you’re in,” he says. “It’s great to run fast and try for a world record, but records are made to be broken. Medals can never be taken away from you.”

Julian, who works under Farah’s coach, Alberto Salazar, says any record attempts probably will come later in the summer during Diamond League meets at sites such as Stockholm, Zurich and Brussels.

“That’s something we’ll address after the Commonwealth Games and European Championships,” Julian says. “Mo wants to focus now on the Commonwealth. He has to be on top of his game to win that with the Kenyans competing.

“Our mind-set is always, ‘Let’s try to compete, and we’ll look at the clock after we cross the line.’ But if Mo feels good after the Commonwealth and Europeans, and he’s healthy and strong, why not? There’s some potential there and some fast races in August and September. It’s an opportunity for Mo to really lay down a big mark. He did that last year at Monaco.”

Farah will be in less than peak form Sunday at L&C. It’s part of the reason why he was in the broadcast booth for the first time at Hayward Field on May 31, calling fellow Nike Oregon Project runner Galen Rupp’s American record 10K run in 26:44.36 at the Prefontaine Classic.

“It was awesome to watch,” Farah says. “As I’m looking at the race, I realize he could have gone even faster. There’s more left.

“I really enjoyed (serving as TV analyst). It’s weird to say, but you have to be careful about saying something you shouldn’t say. If you happen to say the wrong thing, you can get in trouble. But it was fun. Maybe I’ll do more when I’m done. But for now, I’ll stick to running.”

Farah’s training on the track was delayed by participation in his first marathon. After finishing second in the New York City Half-Marathon on March 16, Farah placed eighth in the London Marathon on April 13 in 2:08.21.

“I wanted to run faster,” Farah says. “Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about that. Things happen. I’m learning a lot. I would have been happy if I’d run faster or gotten a higher position, but it was my first crack at it.”

“London didn’t quite meet our expectations,” says Julian, the former University of Portland All-American. “Mo trained very hard in Kenya. His workouts indicated he was capable of running closer to 2:05. It’s almost absurd to be disappointed with a 2:08 debut, but it was Mo Farah, and we knew how good the training had been.

“But that’s the marathon. He’ll focus his attention back to where he’s the best in the world — on the track — and put the marathon on the back-burner for the time being.”

Julian says Farah has recovered from his first marathon.

“His fitness is coming around quickly,” Julian says. “He’s had a handful of good track workouts.”

Farah was an accomplished runner who improved from world-class to world-beater after moving to Portland to train under Salazar in 2011. He won gold at 5K and silver at 10K in the World Championships that summer, then became only the sixth man ever to pull off an Olympic 5K/10K double at London the next year.

The move to Portland “has been brilliant for me,” says Farah, who lives in Beaverton with wife Tania and daughters Rihanna (9) and twins Aisha and Amani (21 months).

“We like living here,” he says. “It’s been good for me, being able to use the Nike facilities and train under Alberto. He’s a great coach. I’m very lucky to have Alberto and Nike behind me.

“He’s tough. He sets goals. He wants us to be the best at what we do. The training is hard, but that’s what it takes to accomplish great things.”

Farah has grown close to Rupp, the Central Catholic High and University of Oregon grad who, at 28, is entering his peak years as a runner.

“When I went to the marathon, I didn’t see as much of him,” Farah says. “Now that I’m back on the track, we’re training together mostly every day. Galen’s a great friend of mine. I like him a lot. He works hard.”

How does Farah balance training and racing and time with his wife and children?

“Family is everything to me,” he says. “Running is fun. It’s my career. But family is most important. I enjoy as much time as I can at home. I’m away a lot, but when I’m here, I spend quality time with the girls.”

The twins “are active,” he says. “Rihanna likes swimming. Tomorrow she has a competition. She’s very good.”

One international website reports that the Farahs want another child. Farah laughs.

“There are four girls in the house,” he says. “At some point, I’d like to have a boy, if it happens.”

Farah stays in touch with his father, who lives in London, and his mother, who is in Somalia, but doesn’t see them often. His twin brother, Hassan, also lives in Somalia.

“He was never a runner,” Mo says. “He’s a mechanic. He likes putting things together and taking them apart. We’re close enough (as brothers), even though we’re thousands of miles apart.”

How much longer will Farah compete as a runner?

“Until I get too old,” he says, laughing again. “I don’t know when that will be. It depends on how I look out for my body. For now, I’ll keep training and do what Alberto tells me to do.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers