WHEN Mo Farah lit up the Olympic Stadium to earn a place in the pantheon of British sporting greats, it was the culmination of years’ hard work.
The road to Games glory is long and bumpy and, for those hoping to follow in majestic Mo’s illustrious spike marks, there will be no short-cuts.
Double Olympian Liz Yelling – the Parkstone woman who ran the marathon for Great Britain in 2004 and 2008 – knows that fact better than most.
A former team-mate of Farah’s, Yelling joined the nation in jumping for joy as he stormed to 5,000 and 10,000m gold at London 2012.
The phrase ‘inspire a generation’ has been plastered all over the Games and there could surely be no better advert for the campaign than Farah.
Born in Somalia and raised in West London, he has become the shining example to young hopefuls targeting sporting stardom.
When it comes to reaching those rarefied heights, natural ability is a clear requirement.
But as Yelling explains, there is also no substitute for hard graft and sheer determination.
“It is about being very driven towards your goal and very single minded – not worrying about what other people think of you or what you are doing,” she told the Daily Echo.
“It is also about having the ability to push boundaries and not sit in that comfort zone. Mo took his family to America because he believed that was the best thing to make him grow as a runner, and he is coached by Alberto Salazar. He did that off his own back.
“People who achieve great things are often highly motivated to find what is going to be the best pathway for success.
“They don’t often see barriers. They see a barrier but then find a way to overcome it.”
Yelling continued: “I have known Mo since he was 15 and competed on teams with him and at the European and world cross-country championships.
“It is really great to see someone grow as an athlete and fulfil their potential.
“He always had the engine – it is just doing all the other things that make you an Olympian.
“Mo loves running and he has just had to apply himself, create a happy and stable environment and find a coach in which he trusts.
“He has also been out to train with the Kenyans, so he has learned from the dominating force in the world as well.
“Then, he went away and learned how to be better than them. He has done everything he needed to.
“He is 29 and it has taken him 14 years of some disappointments, bad races and good races to get him where he is today.”
A keen advocate of making sport accessible to all youngsters, Yelling believes a helpful and supportive network of family, friends and coaches is also a vital ingredient for anybody hoping to emulate Farah.
She added: “I was inspired by my mum who used to run for fitness and health. She didn’t excel at the sport but she was a mum that wanted to keep in shape.
“I used to watch and cheer her on in road races. I asked if I could go for a run with her and it grew from there.
“Then, when I did my first cross-country in a PE lesson, we all legged it off at the front together and, after a couple of hundred metres, I looked around and no one was there. I found that I had a natural ability for it but it was also something that I quite liked. My mum then took me to a local running club.
“But my mum was busy and I had other brothers and sisters, so I was very fortunate that a friend at the club gave me lifts.
“Then my coach went out of his way to drive me to the club.
“If I hadn’t had a lot of help and support, I would never have even become a runner, let alone an Olympian.”
Bournemouth Athletic Club
- Formed in 1906, BAC welcomes people of all ages and abilities.
- Based at the Kings Park Athletic Centre, BAC offers training and competition at all levels in track & field, fun indoor competitions, cross country and road running.
- The club also has close connections with Bournemouth & District Special Olympics, offering opportunities for people with learning disabilities.
- For further information, call 01202 394552, or visit bournemouthathleticclub.co.uk.
Poole Athletic Club
- Poole AC’s activities include road running, cross country and track & field action. People from the age of eight, of all abilities, can attend.
- Juniors and track and field athletes meet on Tuesdays at the Ashdown Centre and road runners meet at the Haymoor Squash Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7pm.
- Junior membership is £15 per year, senior £21 and family £28.
- Visit pooleac.co.uk for further information.
Wimborne Athletic Club
- Wimborne AC was established in 1984 and is run to promote and encourage participation in recreational and competitive athletics.
- Run on a voluntary basis, coaches and officers are largely comprised of individuals who were athletes or have children at the club.
- Visit wimborneac.co.uk for further information.