Last Sunday turned out to be no ordinary Sunday.
I entered a Facebook competition organised by Nike Running to win a place in a 5K run event with Mo Farah, current 5000m world champion and one of the rising stars of contemporary British athletics, proud owner of several gold medals won in 3000m, 10000m and other 5000m championships and cross country competitions. I was actually jumping up and down in the air for about 10 minutes when I saw the email from Nike telling me that I will be one of the lucky ones running with Mo!
I caught the first train to London on that rather chilly Sunday morning – needless to say, I was the only lonely passenger on the platform at that time of the day. I got to Arsenal tube station in almost no time at all where the Nike squad was already waiting for us and shepherding us towards the nearby Gillespie Park. I thought I was going to be one of the first ones to arrive, but I was surprised to see a smaller crowd gathering around the registration desks and changing into Nike T-shirts. In a few moments I was one of the proud owners of these T-shirts and found myself cheerily chatting to strangers. Even though most of us arrived on their own, smaller groups were formed quickly and people started to bond with complete strangers. Our excitement was clearly contagious.
After a brief group warm up, Mo finally arrived in all his glory among loud cheering and clapping. After posing for a few pictures, we started our run together. I think a lot of people wanted to get close to Mo and as a result, the pace was growing quicker and quicker, and before I knew it, I was doing a hardcore speed session!
I felt elevated and the atmosphere was just fantastic, everything radiated energy. The pure thought itself that I was running with THE world champion gave me wings! Our little crowd with our uniform black Nike T-shirts and funny motto “One Mo Mile” and wings at the back side definitely made us an interesting spectacle that morning.
We finished our run at one of Mo’s favourite spots in London, at the Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal football players. I think the venue choice was quite deliberate as Mo is a big fan of Arsenal and if he was not a runner, he surely would be a football player. Mo was cheering on us as we reached the stadium to go around it once to reach the finish line. This run may just have been a leisurely jog for him, but many of us clocked in our fastest ever 5k time!
After the run, more group pictures were taken and some people got lucky enough to get close enough to Mo to be able to have their personal pictures taken – sadly, I was not one of them because elbowing others and stepping on other’s feet is just not in my nature.
After our run, we went into the lounge within the stadium to have a hearty breakfast. Needless to say, I was so excited that I could barely eat. We were seated at round tables and Mo finally appeared again for a Q & A session.
Firstly, one of the Nike guys did an interview with him and then the audience had the chance to ask Mo questions as well. It was great to get to know him better – he seems very approachable and friendly, not full of himself. He is obviously paid by Nike as he gave a very evasive answer to the question related to barefoot running (which I think all of us expected to pop up at some point) – he ended up referring to the Nike Free trainers which give you the feeling of running barefeet. He sounded very excited about preparing for the 2012 Olympics with the help of his trainer, the legendary Alberto Salazar; moving his family to the USA to be closer to the Nike training hub; he also spoke about his friendship with Paula Radcliffe and the enormous support he got from her when he just started out in the world of sport; the amazing energy he gets from his supporters and fans; his desire to be the best in everything he does; his views on talent versus hard work; his favourite meals and pastimes; his passion for football and how he originally wanted to pursue football but his coach spotted his talent at school and quite literally bribed him into joining a local running club.
At the end of such an unforgettable morning, we were almost reluctant to leave. I left feeling really encouraged by Mo to keep up running, be the best I can be and above all, always enjoy what I am doing, otherwise there is no point. I am looking forward to cheering on British and Hungarian runners in this summer’s Olympics and getting more inspiration from Mo as I follow his steps in the news.
Below is a short video that Nike put together to help us remember our day together: