Mo Farah could conceivably target a golden treble at the next Olympics, according to the great Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie.
Farah is the current Olympic and world champion in the 5,000m and 10,000m, and next season will add the marathon to his repertoire with a debut over the 26.2-mile distance in April’s London Marathon.
Gebrselassie, who runs against Farah in today’s Bupa Great North Run half-marathon, says : “It is not easy, but why not – 10,000 straight final, marathon straight final, only the 5,000 [has heats].”
That feat has been achieved just once at Olympic level, back in 1952 when the Czech runner Emil Zatopek won all three titles in Helsinki, and Gebrselassie admits: “It’s tough. It depends on the schedule, time, how fit you are. In sport, everything is possible. Did you expect in 1952 Zatopek to win three gold medals? But he did it.”
It is due to Farah’s achievements over the past two or three years that it is even being mooted as a possibility in Rio. After he completed the double-double at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow last month his coach, Alberto Salazar, said that going for all three events in Rio was unlikely; he expected his charge to double up either in the 5,000m and 10,000m, as in Moscow and London, or else the 10,000m and marathon.
Asked if he felt he could take on all three in three years’ time, Farah himself said merely: “It’s a big challenge.”
At the moment Farah has no idea how his form will translate to the road over four times the longest distance he races on the track, though the Great North Run and next year’s London Marathon will provide important clues. Gebrselassie is well versed in making the transition, having been the world’s best on both track and road during his heyday.
He said: “Marathon is not a distance to be afraid [of], it’s just a marathon. When you switch from track to marathon you don’t need that much change, just more miles in training.”