There will be no donkey derby for Mo Farah today.
Last week, the golden boy of British athletics had to move into an outer lane because a stray beast refused to budge from lane one of the track he was using for training in Kenya. This afternoon, back on home ground for his first race of Olympic year, the world 5,000m champion will be hoping to develop a kick like a thoroughbred metric miler rather than a mule.
With a view to the last lap of the 10,000m and 5,000m finals in London in August, when Olympic gold will be on the line, Farah has chosen to drop down in distance to test his speed over 1500m in the Aviva International Match. It will be his first 1500m since the Diamond League meeting in Monaco in July 2009. He finished 10th that day in 3min 33.98sec, a personal best.
The field this afternoon includes Augustine Choge, a former winner of the Emsley Carr Mile and an Olympic 1500m finalist in Beijing in 2008 – as well as the 2006 Commonwealth 5,000m champion. The Kenyan – a protégé of Brother Colm O'Connell at St Patrick's High School in Iten, the Rift Valley town from which Farah returned on Thursday after five weeks of high-altitude training – should provide the kind of searching examination that the Briton's coach, Alberto Salazar, has in mind.
"Alberto believes in speed, in doing speed work," Farah said. "In previous years I've done 3,000m indoors but Alberto wants me to start with a 1500m here and then a mile in Boston on 4 February. This year Alberto wants me to work out what my weaknesses are, work on all angles.
"Augustine's a great athlete. He's got tremendous speed. I just want to go out there and see what I can do against him. I want to win but it's not going to be easy. When it comes to the 10,000m and 5,000m in London, unless someone goes really early on it's going to come down to the last lap. It's maybe even going to come down to nought point something. It's going to take a last lap of 51sec-52sec to win."
It is all part of Salazar's master plan to equip his star pupil with every bit of armoury. He has already worked on strengthening Farah's core stability to such an extent that his lateral movement has been reduced. "When you rock and roll, you are wasting energy. When you run as straight, you run faster," Farah added.