Nick Rose can remember little of his 5,000m run at Madison Square Garden on 12 February, 1982 - other than his British indoor record performance at the annual Millrose Games in New York City being regarded back home as “not much of a deal.” It will be different if Mo Farah manages to beat the clock, and Rose’s time of 13min 21.27sec, in the Aviva Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham this afternoon – especially now that Britain’s male athlete of the year has announced his intention to move to the north-west American city known as “Little Beirut,” and to switch coaches to the man who finished two places and four seconds behind the Bristolian Rose in that near-forgotten 5,000m race at ‘The Garden.’
Having spent the past six weeks training under the guidance of Alberto Salazar in the United States, Farah has decided to place his future in the hands of the guru who has played a pivotal role in the resurgence of American distance running. In fact, the 27-year-old Briton who won the 5,000m and 10,000m at the European Championships in Barcelona has chosen to move himself and his family from their Thames-side home in Teddington to the Oregon base where Salazar trains a group of elite US runners.
Portland was christened “Little Beirut” by the US presidential staff after visits there by the elder George Bush were met with violent protests. Having reached the top of the European tree under the direction of his long-term coach, Alan Storey, Farah would appear to be taking something of a revolutionary step as he seeks to close the gap on the Kenyans and Ethiopians at the very peak of the global endurance running game. Not that he sees it as a gamble, 17 months out from the Olympic Games in his home town.
“Last year was a great year for me,” Farah said, “but if I'm going to get close to a medal in the World Championships or in the Olympics in 2012 something needs to change. Alberto is a great and I believe he can make that 1%, 2% difference. That could be a medal. That could be gold or silver.”
As an athlete, the Cuban-born Salazar was a three-time New York City Marathon winner renowned for pushing himself to the limit. As a coach, he has guided Dathan Ritzenhein and Kara Goucher to world championship medals and gained a reputation for an ultra-holistic approach that has included making minute changes to the running angles of his charges’ arms and legs.
As Rose, Salazar’s Millrose Games rival of 1982, acknowledged: “He’s a hard task master, Alberto. Lot of respect to him. He’s had a lot of success with his group. But he’s done some strange things – using altitude tents and stuff. I’ve always thought running was simple.”
Now 59 and a primary school teacher, Rose himself coaches in his spare time. He will be watching his group of athletes at the National Cross Country Championships at Alton Towers today, expecting Farah to consign his 29-year-old record to history.