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Mo Farah axes Alberto Salazar: Peculiar but not unexpected

Mo Farah axes Alberto Salazar: Peculiar but not unexpected

31/10/2017 at 13:56Updated 31/10/2017 at 14:27

Mo Farah has ditched marathon-specialist Alberto Salazar as he embarks on his own 26.2-mile adventure. But are family reasons solely behind his reason to return to England? Ben Snowball takes a look…

Farah has abandoned Alberto Salazar to pursue his marathon adventure.

The man who turned him from also-ran to only-ran. The man who crafted his ascent to four Olympic gold medals and six world titles. The man who was, at one point, revered as the greatest marathon runner in American history. The man who even briefly held the world record over 26.2 miles in 1981, before the New York course was remeasured and found to be nearly 170 yards short.

But also the man so dogged by doping allegations that Farah would rather hinder his own career than stick it out any longer.

When Farah faced journalists – or, rather, attacked them – after securing 10,000m gold and 5000m silver at the IAAF World Championships in London back in August, he refused to commit to Salazar for his next chapter on the road. Frustrated, occasionally rambling, it was clear the furore surrounding his relationship with his coach – who hadn't even travelled to London – had strained him.

"So many times, you guys have been unfair to me," said Farah.

"The fact is I've achieved what I have from hard work. Putting my balls on the line, year after year and delivering for my country. Sometimes I find it bizarre how certain people write certain things to suit how they want to sell the story."

The 'story selling' has not gone away.

Salazar is haunted by multiple allegations, among them that he was involved in doping US track star Galen Rupp, now an erstwhile training partner of Farah. Farah, too, has faced allegations of his own – with hacker group Fancy Bears releasing medical records which were red-flagged before being declared normal. Both protest innocence and, until this point, have stuck together.

Alberto Salazar, Mo Farah

Alberto Salazar, Mo FarahGetty Images

Now, it seems that relationship has become untenable. Farah is returning to England to be reunited with his family on a full-time basis, ditching Salazar just as his event and his coach’s speciality were set to collide.

But he is surely doing exactly that – even if it was a decision made easier by being able to return home. He will set about marathon domination back in England under the gaze of Gary Lough, who coached his wife Paula Radcliffe to the marathon world record – perhaps the greatest feat in athletics history. Radcliffe ran over three minutes quicker than any other woman in history to set an unfathomable 2:15.25 in 2003. The mark still stands, unruffled, some 14 years on.

Lough's credentials are obvious and particularly appealing to Farah, who has known him since he was 16. But compared to Salazar, who nurtured Farah into the runner he is today and has transformed American distance running over the last decade? Who took on Farah not as a youngster, but as a 27-year-old struggling to compete in major global finals? Why would you leave that now unless, of course, you were fed up with off-track matters?

Video - Farah: It's been an amazing journey


Another problem facing Farah...

And anyway, regardless of his coach, Farah faces a brutal challenge on the road.

Whereas his track success was built on keeping his rivals under close surveillance before exploding on the final lap, there is no bell that signals a frantic charge in a marathon. Races are often won by breakaways in the closing stages and certainly never by a 51-second final 400m.

Farah’s full debut at the London Marathon in 2014 was, by his standards, underwhelming. He finished eighth in 2:08.21 – over a minute adrift of the British record and roughly four off a time capable of threatening the elite. While everyone pokes around for answers about Salazar, perhaps another question should be asked: will he even be good enough at the marathon?

This is not a slight, more a realistic assessment of what can be achieved by a single human body. Farah is the European record holder over 1500m at 3:28.21 – just over two seconds off the world record. It seems unfathomable that he could cover 42,195m at 4:45-a-mile pace, given he is so rapid over shorter distances. Marathon world record holder Dennis Kimetto doesn’t have an official time below 10,000m, while legendary distance runner Kenenisa Bekele was nearly four seconds slower than Farah over 1500m. Almost no athlete in history can boast such a broad spectrum of distances.