London: Mo Farah has hit back at criticism that his decision to run only half of the London Marathon on Sunday was motivated by money.
The double Olympic champion spoke openly of his hurt and shock at the comments levelled at him in media reports and from some former athletes, including the BBC pundit and 400m world record-holder, Michael Johnson, who stated that he risked ruining his reputation for a race that “looks like it is all about the money”, just months after being hailed as a national hero for his historic double win in the Olympic Stadium.
“It has come as a bit of a shock to me,” said Farah.
“There are certain things, the Daily Mail in particular, write about that do annoy me. As an athlete, yes there are rewards, don’t get me wrong, for what I achieve. When you become Olympic champion and everything else when you go into a race, yes there are rewards. But for someone to say he’s only doing it for those rewards that’s wrong.
“Every race I do, am I only doing it for rewards? I’m here to do well. This race, in my heart, I’m here to learn about the course, learn about everything else, use it as a learning curve, and get ready for next year.
“It wasn’t: ‘Yes I’m getting so and so, I’m going to do it!’ If I did that it would be wrong. And that’s one of the things that hurts.
“I genuinely enjoy my athletics. It’s something I did as a kid. It was a hobby which became my job. To turn up just for this and that would be the wrong reasons. It’s not nice but all the people who know me and know who I am know I’m not the sort of person who would do that.”
The London Marathon promoters have declined to disclose the exact figure being paid to the 29-year-old but it is believed to be closer to £450,000 over two races rather than the £750,000 reported elsewhere, and is part of an ongoing long-standing relationship between Farah and the race organisers who have supported him since his university days at St Mary’s in Twickenham.
Farah was keen to emphasise his respect for the race, in which he will leave the field at the 13th mile on Sunday, describing how his tactics have been thought out so as not to disturb the competitors going the full distance as well as his decision not to do any media on the day of the race.
“I don’t want to destroy the race for the normal runners by being at the front and surging and then dropping back and then picking up the pace again. That’s out of respect. You have to respect the guys who are out here.”
“My aim is to come out here and learn about the race and get used to the course so that next year I’m ready to go. It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. If someone is giving you a practice run, why would you turn that down?”
Wearing a black ribbon in memory of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, for whom race organisers will donate £2 for every runner who crosses the line raising an estimated £70,000, Farah said his participation in the event was never in doubt.
“This is home for me, it’s where I grew up. Obviously it’s terrible news and you don’t want to see that anywhere. The people were just going out there to enjoy a race, but as an athlete this is what we do day in day out it would be wrong to do anything other than run.”
The Somali-born star, who arrived in London aged nine, said his wife and daughters would be watching from their newly adopted home of Portland, Oregon, but that none of his family were worried about him competing.
“Before the Olympic Games there was a lot of talk about different things [security fears], but we do a great job here and we will do a great job again.
“We don’t want to be thinking about the negatives. My family is back in Portland because my daughter is at school. I just came here to run. I’m not worried. It’s London, man. Maybe if I was in another place in the US, nearer where it happened, it would be different, but it’s London. My in-laws are around, everyone else is here. They won’t be worried at all.”