‘If I run along the Thames, usually someone will go “That’s Mo!” and come and race alongside me’: Mo Farah. Photograph: Hamish Brown/Contour by Getty Images

Sir Mo Farah: ‘I would have loved to play for Arsenal’

The athlete, 38, talks about winning the Olympics in London, jogging down the Thames, his strict training regime and how often he shaves his head.

I don’t have many memories of growing up in Somalia – I was so young. I remember coming to the UK, age eight, going to school – even though I couldn’t speak any English – and suddenly having all these friends to play with.

I owe a lot to my PE teacher, Mr Watkinson. He saw me running around the playground, he watched me run in a figure of eight around the gym. Then he thought: “That kid is good at running.” He encouraged me to join a local running club. We’re still in touch.

I lived with some Kenyan runners in the early 2000s. They didn’t have a social life. All they did was eat, train, sleep. I realised then that I needed to eat, train and sleep like them if I wanted to be the best.

Winning the Olympics in front of my home crowd in London was incredible. Everything that led to it – my training, my mindset – it all made sense. People who saw it on telly probably didn’t think about how long it took to get there. What I achieved didn’t happen overnight. It took years.

I’m very disorganised at day-to-day things, but I’m getting better. It’s easy as an athlete to train and not worry about anything else. But I’m working hard to become a bit more involved with my kids. I think I can still beat them in a race, but it depends what distance. My son is pretty quick.

I’m getting back into running after my injury [Farah suffered a stress fractured ankle in the summer of 2020]. When I get fitter and stronger, I can see how much I can do. I hope to make the marathon. You’ve got to enjoy the moment and enjoy what you do. So I hope to keep competing and keep smiling.

Lockdown was tough for all of us, but it made everyone realise what’s important in life – and that’s family.

I would have loved to play for Arsenal, but I was never good enough. I played at school and for the local club until I was 14, but I was only good because I could cross the ball and run forward and run back. I didn’t have any other skills. I joined a running club instead.

It is nice to see so many people getting out of the house, going for a run, for walks, out on bikes. Running clears the mind. It’s easy to sit at home and feel sorry for yourself. It’s like when you’re driving and feel tired, the best thing to do is open the window and get some fresh air. When you’ve been indoors too long, some fresh air relaxes you.

If I run along the Thames or around Richmond Park, usually someone will go “That’s Mo!” and come and race alongside me for 20 or 30 seconds. My wife often says she needs to go for a little jog – and she jogs a little. You’ve got to just keep going at your own pace.

How often do I shave my head? Every three days.

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