'Fly Mo' soars after tucking into Haggis

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The Independent Online

On the west side of Scotland's capital yesterday the air traffic at Edinburgh International Airport was brought to a halt by snow. On the east side of the city there was no stopping the burgeoning British sporting phenomenon known as Fly Mo.

Wearing a Great Britain vest for the first time since the steamy July Saturday night on which he completed his 5,000m-10,000m double at the European Championships in Barcelona, Mo Farah proved a class apart in the feature race at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country. The sub-zero temperatures could not freeze the assets of the 27-year-old golden boy of British distance running as the 8.2km international team race unfolded on a picturesque snow-covered course in the shadow of Arthur's Seat.

Protected from the Caledonian extremities by a long-sleeve thermal shirt, knee-length shorts, gloves and a hat, Farah chose to bide his time towards the back of the lead pack before hitting the front on the first of three climbs up the steep slopes of Haggis Knowe. After the second ascent, he made what proved to be winning move, pulling decisively clear of American Galen Rupp and Sergey Lebid, the Ukrainian who boasts nine European cross country titles.

As he entered the finishing straight, Farah took off his hat, showing his rivals a clean shaven head as well as a clean pair of heels. He crossed the line in 25min 41sec, with Rupp nine seconds down in second place and Spain's Ayad Lamdassam snatching third ahead of the tiring Lebid.

"Last year I didn't have such a good time here," Farah reflected. "This time I felt really good." Twelve months ago the Somali-born Londoner finished third and in a state of near-collapse in the short-course 4.2km race. Medical tests showed him to be suffering from deficiencies in iron and magnesium.

In addition to vitamins, regular training trips to Kenya helped to instil the mettle that took the matchstick man figure to double gold in Barcelona and also to the British 5,000m record last summer. The benefits of a pre-Christmas stint in Iten were clear to see at Holyrood yesterday in a race from which the might of East Africa were conspicuously absent, the main event on the programme having been re-vamped as an international contest between Great Britain, Europe and the USA. As Farah looks to take on the Kenyans and Ethiopians at the World Championships in Daegu in August, however, he is preparing for a new departure.

Tomorrow Farah leaves home to follow in the footsteps of Paula Radcliffe to Alburquerque - home of not just hot dogs and jumping frogs but also the elite group of distance runners coached by the Cuban-born American great of the marathon, Alberto Salazar. Radcliffe has been working with Salazar in readiness for her return to the marathon following the birth of her second child. Farah intends to test the training waters in New Mexico before his next competitive outing, an indoor race over 3,000m or 5,000m at the Aviva British Grand Prix in Birmingham on February 19.

"Salazar's a great coach," he said. "Kenya has worked out well for me but it will be nice to try something different. I'm going to the US to check it out. Salazar's got a good group in Alburquerque. Paula goes there a lot."

Farah has yet to decide whether to defend his 3,000m title at the European Indoor Championships in Paris in March. "I'd love to have a go at retaining it," he said, "but I'll sit down and have a chat with my coach about it. the main focus this year is the World Championships in Daegu in the summer."