Four years ago when Sir Mo Farah won the first of his four consecutive Great North Run titles he admitted he was still consumed with fear over what life on the road would bring.
Farah was still two years away from calling time on his glittering track career and remained unsure whether he was entirely cut out to translate that success to the world of elite marathon running.
But the 35-year-old returns to Newcastle on Sunday battle-hardened from two full years of mixing it with the world’s best distance runners – and intent on using the race to pave the way to glory over the longer distance.
Victory this weekend will make Farah the first man to win the Great North Run five times, and deliver the ideal preparations for his appearance next month at the Chicago Marathon.
Farah said: “I’m still learning and understanding more and I’m not afraid to mix it in. In 2014, I was afraid to mix it because it was their territory and I was a track runner. But now I’m not afraid of anything.
“It’s a totally different challenge and I’m enjoying every day of it. My goal is to win a major marathon. For a track runner the highlight is the Olympics, and in the marathon the biggest thing you can do is win a major race.”
This year’s Great North Run presents a different dimension for Farah, who admitted his previous victories in the race have signalled the end of the season and a rare opportunity to binge-eat sticky toffee pudding.
Farah, who has run the London Marathon twice, coming third in April, is closing in on his latest career goal and has not under-estimated the importance of making history in the process on Tyneside.
“My aim (in Newcastle) is to run a decent time – I’ve still got another week from this point so it will be a good test for me on Sunday to see where I am and what I can do,” said Farah.
“I’ve never gone into this race having had this amount of training. I’ve always gone into it thinking – ‘Great North Run, finish, sticky toffee pudding’.
“But after this it’s straight back to my training camp in Flagstaff to prepare for Chicago. Hopefully I will get the job done and there will be a lot of stuff to take back. Doing that as the first five-time winner would be amazing.”
Farah’s biggest challenge is likely to come from Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru, winner of the 2017 London Marathon. Vivian Cheruiyot and Joyciline Jepkosgei are favourites for the women’s race.