SINCE Sir Mo Farah began winning gold almost a decade ago, his wife Tania has been by his side.
She was at the finish line following his heart-stopping victory at London 2012 for both the 5,000m and 10,000m, then at Rio 2016 when he again scooped double gold.
Tania has also supported him through the tough times, like in April when Mo finished a disappointing fifth at the London Marathon after a well-publicised row with Olympic legend Haile Gebrselassie – Mo had claimed a watch, money and two phones were stolen from his room in a hotel owned by the Ethiopian runner, though the hotel reported that Mo had not used the hotel safe.
Mo was also roped into controversy in 2017 when his American coach Alberto Salazar was accused of doping. Through the ups and downs of his running career, mum-of-four Tania, 33, has been Mo’s rock.
But the tables have turned, and now it’s his turn to cheer her on. After the birth of son Hussein, three years ago, Tania caught the running bug and thanks to Mo’s expert guidance is gunning for a PB in today’s Great North Run – her third stab at a half marathon.
Over the past 10 weeks she’s ploughed everything into training, packing in daily long-distance runs – no mean feat considering for the past month she’s been home alone, with Mo at a training camp in Portland, Oregon, ahead of the Chicago Marathon in October.
And her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by her and 36-year-old Mo’s four children, Rhianna, 14, seven-year-old twin girls Aisha and Amani, and Hussein.
“One of the twins was bragging to her friend that I’d run 100 miles in one go!” laughs Tania, who met Mo when they were studying at uni in west London.
“It was so sweet. It touched me that she was talking about me running and not her dad. It feels nice that the kids are proud of me.”
They’re not the only ones being inspired. Since documenting her training programme on Instagram, Tania has been bombarded with support and questions from budding runners.
Tania, when did you decide to give running a go?
At the end of 2015 after I had my son, I wanted a new challenge. I made a commitment to run a half marathon in 2016 in two hours.
I did my first in 1 hour 51 minutes then I got the bug! As a teenager, I competed nationally in javelin and the furthest I ran was 800m, so it wasn’t the same conditioning as now.
I gave up sport at 17 – I didn’t have the passion for it.
Is Mo a taskmaster when it comes to training?
He can be! Luckily I don’t need pushing too much. I’m quite hardcore with my training.
He gives me lots of advice – drinking lots of water, carbing up the night before and having protein immediately after the run.
He’s also amazing at massage. It’s genuinely one of the best I’ve ever had!
How do you fit in the training being a busy mum of four?
I’ll run when they don’t need me, when they’re either at school or in bed. The other night I got on the treadmill at 10.30pm. I do what I can to fit it in.
Why are you taking this half marathon training so seriously?
I’m that kind of person. At the kids’ sports day, even though it’s a laugh I turn up to win the parents’ race. I’m even thinking about it the night before! I’m so competitive.
Did you envy Mo’s life as a runner?
No, because I couldn’t handle what he does – that pressure. I don’t think I could do it if it was a job. It’s a hobby for me.
You and Mo got married in 2010. What’s the biggest strain on your relationship?
The time apart because it makes things harder for us as a family, emotionally and logistically. The kids have a lot of positives to enjoy because of what Dad does, but at the same time they don’t see him half their lives.
My son is in bits every day at the moment because Dad’s been gone a month. The girls are older and understand, but Hussein plays up massively.
I can’t take away that pain and I totally understand because I feel it myself. I definitely feel quite lonely.
Does absence make the heart grow fonder?
The time apart definitely enhances our relationship. While it’s hard, it makes our love a lot stronger and when he’s around we appreciate each other so much more.
When he’s home we try to get the date nights in!
Have you set Mo a deadline for how long you can live like this?
I’d like to have some form of normality at some point in the near future. But Mo’s 36 now, he’s not going to keep doing this forever. Tokyo is a big thing in his sights, then who knows? I’ll do it as long as Mo is able to continue.
How do you feel about sometimes being portrayed as a pushy wife?
I take it with a pinch of salt. My focus is my family and Mo and making sure he wins the races that he’s away for. When the press write things about us I ignore it.
Him being away for six months of the year is much more difficult for me to deal with than any of that.
How have you supported Mo through the turbulent past couple of years?
Focusing on what it takes to get him to win whatever race he’s training for. The marathon this year was tough.
He was away for three months and normally it pays off, but this time it didn’t. Every time he doesn’t win a race he’s devastated and he totally keeps it inside, but I feel every ounce of it.
How do you help him?
I surround him with love and distract him with all the positive stuff. Luckily we don’t have to look far for that. We’ve got four kids – it’s in our faces!
So what’s next?
I’m going to set myself another goal after the Great North Run – maybe a 10k in November or December. Maybe when Mo retires I’ll do a marathon. I’ve had visions of us doing stuff like that together when our abilities are a bit closer!
What’s the emotional benefit of running?
Freedom. It’s the only time I don’t have the kids demanding my time or attention. I feel more relaxed running 10 miles than I do when I’m at home sometimes. It can be addictive – it’s an escape.
How has your training changed you physically?
Before I began running I’d just had my son so I wasn’t doing a lot of exercise. I’ve always been in fairly good shape but I wasn’t toned.
Since starting this training 10 weeks ago I’ve toned up a lot and lost a bit of weight. I used to be 9st 8lb, I’m now 8st 13lb and have dropped a dress size.
Everything I eat is burned off. I never thought in a million years I’d get to the shape I’m in now.
You’ve had some amazing support on Instagram…
It’s been nice. When people ask for my advice, I just tell them what works for me. I don’t know it all, but you just have to work hard. I tell people to keep pushing.
- Tania is participating in today’s Great North Run
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