The celebrity-memoir season is in full swing, as ever offering an alternative to humorous socks or bath accessories when it comes to Christmas presents.
Football dominates the sporting best-sellers list, but slotted in behind Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp and David Beckham comes Mo Farah, one of the heroes of Britain’s Super Saturday at the London Olympics, before going on to complete the double double by winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at this year’s World Athletic Championships in Moscow.
His journey from a small town in Somaliland to the pinnacle of his sport has been well chronicled, but hearing his story in his own words gives it added immediacy and emotion. Central to his life has been the loss he felt when he moved to England aged eight, while for complicated family reasons his twin brother, Hassan, was left behind. They were not to see each other for nearly 12 years, and he obviously still feels the pain; he ends the book by saying: “I have this dream that when I stop running, Hassan will be there. His family next to my family.”
He also reveals that his cheeky-chappy image conceals a fiercely competitive character, not afraid to use his fists. He was constantly scrapping when he started school in Hounslow, and as recently as 2009 got involved in a bizarre fight when out on a Christmas-Day training run after a father pushing a baby buggy consistently refused to move over to let him through.
Fortunately for Farah, he had an inspirational PE teacher who patiently guided him towards fulfilling his talent, a fact Farah gratefully acknowledges. Yet it is interesting to see how he steadily took more control of his destiny as he matured; crucial factors in his success, such as going to train in Kenya and switching to Alberto Salazar as his coach, were his own choices.
When he retires from competition Farah says he looks forward to playing football again and spending more time watching his beloved Arsenal. But first he plans to tackle the marathon. Given how far he has come already, don’t bet against him becoming a world-beater at that distance as well.
Published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, £20