Farah races into the record books

New coach inspires British athlete of the year to set new domestic and European indoor mark for 5,000m
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The Independent Online

Mo Farah is looking to the future, with a new home in a new country and a new coach, and on home soil in Birmingham yesterday the reigning male British athlete of the year did some overdue turning of the clock in a forward direction.

Since the Millrose Games on 12 February 1982, the British indoor 5,000m record had stood still at the 13min 21.27sec clocked by Nick Rose. Twenty-nine years and seven days on, Farah finally consigned those figures to history in the feature race of the Aviva Grand Prix.

He did so watched by the marathon great who finished four seconds and two places behind the Bristolian Rose in that long-distant race at Madison Square Garden in New York City.For the past six weeks Farah has been working under the guidance of Alberto Salazar, and the man behind the revival of US distance running was in the 8,000 sell-out crowd to see his new charge break not just one record but two.

It was a win-win situation for Salazar, the Cuban-born, Boston-raised runner turned coaching guru who won three consecutive New York City Marathon titles in the early 1980s. His elite training group at Nike's headquarters at Beaverton, on the outskirts of Portland in Oregon, includes Galen Rupp, the American who slugged out a nip-and-tuck duel with Farah over 25 laps of the tightly banked 200m track.

Roared on by the crowd down the back straight on the final lap, the27-year-old Briton made the decisive break, pulling clear to win in 13:10.60. That put Farah comfortably inside Rose's British record and also 0.53sec inside the European record set last year by his occasional training companion, Bouabdellah Tahri of France.

For Rupp, there was the consolation of setting a US record, 13:11.44, making it a good day all round for the Salazar camp.

"Alberto's a great coach," Farah said. "Even in the few weeks I've been training with him I think it's made a difference, mentally and physically. He's always there, monitoring you and watching you. Even on a long run he's there on his bike, passing you a drink and talking to you all the time."

In his own running days, Salazar was not so much a biked as a driven soul. To aid his recovery from training and races he had his muscles rubbed with dimethyl sulfoxide, a lotion used to reduce inflammation in racehorses. His approach to coaching has been similarly ultra-holistic, with the use of altitude houses and electrodes measuring the brain waves of his athletes.

It remains to be seen whether he can make Farah a true thoroughbred of the global distance-running game. "I've just seen Alberto now and all he said was, 'Well done," Farah said after the race. "He doesn't give away much more than that."

With the Kenyans and Ethiopians to face at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August, and at the Olympic Games back on home soil next year, a simple pat on the back was probably appropriate. In Dusseldorf nine days ago Isaiah Koech clocked 12:53.29 in an indoor 5,000m race. He is a Kenyan and just turned 17.

Still, Farah has the prospect of gold in his sights, at the European Indoor Championships in Paris from 4-6 March. The British team will be announced on Tuesday, but it will not include Mark Lewis-Francis. The Birchfield Harrier left the National Indoor Arena on crutches after suffer-ing a groin injury in the 60m heats.

Sadly, he was not the only British casualty at the end of a week in which the former world junior 1500m champion Steph Twell suffered a horrifictriple ankle fracture while competing in a cross-country race in Belgium. The Commonwealth pole vault silver medallist Steve Lewis fractured both his pole and his left thumb.

Still, amid the "Oohs!" and "Arghs!" there were some high notes hit by Britons. There were victories for Phillips Idowu in the triple jump (17.57m), Jenny Meadows in the 800m (1min 59.22sec), the emerging Nigel Levinein the 400m (46.17sec) and Tom Parsons in the high jump (2.21m). And there was a massive lifetime best for Helen Clitheroe, fourth in the 3,000m. Her time, 8min 39.81sec, put her top of the European rankings at the age of 37.