Press Centre

Piers Morgan's Life Stories

  • Episode: 

    2 of 6

  • Title: 

    Mo Farah
  • Transmission (TX): 

    Fri 11 Sep 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 37 2015 : Sat 05 Sep - Fri 11 Sep
  • Channel: 

  • Amended: 

    Thu 10 Sep 2015
Double Olympic Gold medallist Mo Farah talks to Piers about his remarkable sporting achievements, being separated from his twin brother at the age of eight, how he sees his life after he retires from racing and how his mum would rather he had a ‘proper’ job.
Mo Farah is arguably Britain’s greatest ever athlete and has never before opened himself up like he does on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, but admits: ‘I’m really nervous because I’ve never talked about my life.’
Mo’s life as a top athlete
Asked by Piers what it feels like to be Britain’s greatest ever track athlete, he responds: ‘It makes me feel proud, something I’ve worked so hard for.‘
Some of Mo’s achievements include: Two Olympic Gold medals, three World Championship Gold medals, five European Championship Gold medals, two European Indoor Championship Gold medals, one European team Championship Gold medal and a European Cross-country Gold medal.
So where does Mo keep all these medals? ‘Most of my medals I keep in my man cave.  It’s got a treadmill, pool table…’
Piers asks if Mo ever has moments of ‘How did I get here?’
Mo answers: ‘Yes, I do. Sometimes I see myself as a kid and not being able to speak any English and then now, to achieve two gold medals, have a CBE, and to be considered as one of the greatest, it doesn’t quite sink in…it’s unbelievable, I’m very grateful.’
So just what does it take to achieve such success? What is Mo’s daily routine when he’s training for a race?
Mo describes: ‘First thing I do is have a coffee, two pieces of toast with jam, sometimes Nutella, and go out for a 12-mile run, then come back, sleep for at least two hours, and then I’ll go for another six mile run…18-miles average a day, every day. Sunday I get a break, I do a longer run, between 18 and 20 miles, so I get the afternoon off …120-125 miles every week, unless I’m injured or easing down for a race.’
Piers enquires if all competitors at Mo’s level do the same amount of training?
‘No they don’t,’ says Mo, ‘and that’s why I’m number one. I have to train for it.’
Mo also uses a cryo-chamber, which as he explains:
‘It’s minus-170 degrees, it helps you recover, you have to keep moving around (in the chamber).  If you were stood still for five-minutes in there you’d freeze to death…I’m still wondering how I managed to have kids!’
For dinner Mo would typically ‘eat healthily, salad or chicken, rice, pasta, spaghetti bolognese is the easiest to make at training camp, I love it.’
Piers tells Mo that his own personal trainer tells him it’s terrible that he (Piers) eats spaghetti bolognese, and asks why it’s good for Mo but not for him?
Mo explains: ‘For you, you don’t want more carbs, you need more protein…I do more mileage.’
Does Mo ever drink alcohol?
Piers jokes that it all sounds like a lot of fun! He asks Mo if he enjoys that kind of lifestyle?
‘It’s hard, I don’t get to see my family, I don’t have a social life…I love it, don’t get me wrong, it’s something I enjoy and will compete until I stop enjoying it, but at the same time I couldn’t do what all my friends are now doing.’
Mo’s naked jump off Kingston bridge
Piers says to Mo that apparently he used to be a naughty boy.
Mo says: ‘A very naughty boy.’
Piers asks Mo to talk him through the occasion when, as a student, a naked Mo went for a swim in the Thames.
Mo talks through the story: ‘I was on a night out with my friends, shouldn’t have been drinking but I’d had a few drinks, it went straight to my head and then we were like, ‘Should we jump off Kingston bridge into the Thames?’…it’s quite a big drop and I can’t even swim properly. I hit hard, tried to swim, took a while to get out, and then someone at the top (of the bridge) shouted ‘Police!’ so we run down the street, we had no clothes on…there was no police he (a friend) was pranking. Now I think about it, it was a stupid thing to do.’
Mo’s special bond with his twin brother, Hassan, despite being separated at the age of eight
Talking about his twin brother Hassan, Mo says: ‘We are close, and it does make me feel special, we dressed the same, we’d get in little fights and people would beat me up thinking it’s him, we were happy kids, just running about.’
Piers asks what the bond between twins is like?
Mo answers: ‘It feels amazing, but it’s hard to explain, we have that tight connection, if he’s ill or not feeling right, I can feel it, he feels the same thing.’
Mo explains how the twin brothers came to be separated.
‘I was really young at the time, I didn’t know what was going to happen.  We were eight, getting on a plane (to come to England) with my brother, excited thinking we were going to join our father, and then my brother got really sick and he was in hospital, and they said he couldn’t travel.  I didn’t think anything of it, I was thinking ‘Brother can’t travel, we’ll go together’, the talk was everything’s kind of laid back, ‘Oh he’ll come, they’d come back and come and get him’…we leave, Hassan’s still there.’
Mo’s dad went back at a later date and couldn’t find Hassan.  Eventually he had to come back to England for work and he didn’t have Mo’s twin brother with him.
Mo explains why it was the case that Hassan couldn’t be found: ‘The civil war happened just before I left, people were moving around, at the time there were no phones, no communication.’
Mo didn’t see Hassan, the person he was closest to in the world, for 12-years.
Mo reflects: ‘At the time I was thinking a lot, but there was nothing I could do, but in my dream I always would meet him, I never let go of that…it was difficult. I guess it’s like my kids now, I’ve got twin girls, try and separate them, I couldn’t do it.’
The brothers were reunited in 2003.
‘I just wanted to see him,’ Mo says, ‘I wanted to know what he looked like, if he’d changed much. I saved up some money and went to see him. (Being reunited with him) was the best feeling ever, that’s the first time really that I cried, and he had tears and he hugged me, and he said ‘My brother, my brother.’ It was an amazing moment, and I heard him speak and he sounded exactly the same as me.  We went back to the house, talked to him, kind of holding hands.’
Mo’s upbringing in Somalia and his move to London
Mo was born in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and he moved to neighbouring country Djibouti when he was four-years-old, where he shared a bedroom with eight members of his family.
Did Mo feel particularly poor growing up?
‘So long as you had the roof over where you sleep, that was fine, that was considered as normal.’
How did Mo find coming to England as an eight-year-old boy, not speaking a word of English, moving to Shepherd’s Bush in West London?
‘Going down the high street, the shops, people walking by, wearing different clothes, skirts, suits…’
Had he ever seen a suit?
‘No, (only) on TV.’
He continues: ‘It was scary at times because I didn’t know what was going to happen, I couldn’t speak any English, I could not communicate with people, sometimes it was very frustrating, knowing you wanted to say something, how you felt, and you couldn’t. But I’m very lucky to have been at a certain age.’
Mo’s cousin Mahad did teach him a few phrases in English during his early years in the country, including ‘Excuse me’, ‘Where is the toilet?’, and ‘Come on then!’
And Mo reveals how saying the phrase ‘Come on then!’ to the hardest kid in school, unaware of how that phrase could be taken, resulted in him getting a punch and black eye from the other kid.
Piers asks Mo if he’d ever considered athletics before his talent was spotted by his PE teacher?
Mo says: ‘No…at that point it was just fun, getting out of the house…I wanted to play football, I loved playing football, but I never had any skills.’
He explains that his PE teacher said to him: ‘If you do well at this race, I’ll buy you a football kit.’
‘I started to enjoy it (running) more.  The biggest point when I realised in my career where this is amazing was we had the chance to go to Florida to do a training camp, so we had the Youth Olympics, and I got picked and went there and that’s when I realised I wanted to be a runner.  If I’m getting the chance to go to America, somewhere else, from that point I changed and I said ‘I want to be an athlete, I don’t want to play football anymore.’’
Mo admits that he doesn’t know what his life would have been like if he hadn’t become a runner. He says: ‘I could easily have gone down the wrong path, because I was very social, whenever someone was having fun I wanted to jump in, just get involved.’
The love of Mo’s life – his wife Tania
Talking about meeting his wife Tania when they were kids (Tania was 11 and he was 14), Mo says: ‘Tania was one person I’d talk to, we were really good friends, I’d go round her house, all the time I’d be on the phone to her.’
He says he was probably 18 when he first asked her out, and that’s when she said ‘No’.
‘When she said ‘no’, I was like, okay, whatever, and then I lived my life, went to uni, went crazy, and then realised I still had feelings for her.’
Tania and Mo were reunited years later, via Facebook.  By this time, Tania had a young daughter Rhianna.  Tania recalls the first time they met up as adults. ‘That was when I first felt something.  There were definitely sparks.’
When they first started courting, Mo didn’t want Tania to know how well he was doing financially, so he took her to meals at McDonald’s.
He admits: ‘I just wanted to test her.’
How did he eventually propose to her?
Mo says: ‘It was in the living room, we were watching TV, and I’m like ‘I want to marry this girl’, and I just asked her if she’d marry me.’
He continues: ‘She was like, ‘Are you serious?’’
And what were they watching?
Piers asks Mo, as both he and Tania are devout Muslims, if he could have married a non-Muslim?
Mo says: ‘Faith is important to me, at the same time this is who I’ve fallen in love with, sometimes you can fall in love with anyone.’
He continues: ‘It’s a good thing I have Tania.  If I didn’t have the family and everything, I wouldn’t be where I am.’
Running is viewed differently in Somalia
Piers says that Somalians don’t really view competitive running as a sport.
‘No they don’t,’ says Mo, ‘I went back to Somalia, to see my brother, at that time I was jogging a little bit, I was running down the street and they were like ‘Oh the crazy guy, crazy guy, what you doing?’…people were coming out their houses, thinking ‘Who’s this lunatic?’…when you run (over there) it’s because something’s happened, or you’re reporting something…so they were like ‘What’s happened?’…I did that two days and I was like, ‘I’m not doing this again.’’
Piers references that Mo’s twin brother Hassan has said that he thinks he was as good a runner as Mo.
Mo admits: ‘Physically he could do what I do better, in anything, he could have been a better runner.’
He adds that Hassan is ‘very happy’ living in Somalia and has no desire to lead a life like Mo’s.
Mo says: ‘He’s very proud of what I have achieved but he didn’t understand how hard I train, he’s like, ‘Man, you work so hard.’’
Winning double gold at the Olympics
On winning double Gold at the Olympics, Mo says: ‘It was incredible, it’s never going to happen again (in London) in my life.’
‘I was very nervous,’ he continues, ‘the most nervous ever.  That was the biggest moment.’
Mo’s twin daughters
Mo’s wife Tania was heavily pregnant with twins and there was every chance she could give birth during the Olympics.
Tania said: ‘We decided it would be okay if I went into labour and we’d just not tell him until after.’
Luckily the twins held on and Tania gave birth to daughters, Amani and Aisha, two weeks later.
Criticism that Mo ‘wasn’t British’
What did Mo feel about any sneering from people that Mo ‘wasn’t British’?
Mo answers: ‘Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but at the same time it’s what you feel in your heart, and for me this is my country, I see myself as British, I’ve done well for my country. It is amazing, as a kid not being able to speak English, and to achieve what I have, it’s incredible.’
Mo’s view on athletes taking illegal drugs
Piers asks Mo what he thinks of the athletes who take illegal drugs?
Mo says: ‘It depends what they get done for. If something that you do, you know what you’re doing then it should be, I think, a longer ban.’
He continues: ‘Anywhere I am in the world I get a one-hour slot and testers can come in that hour and if I’m not there it’s a missed test, and I believe all countries should be able to do what we’re doing…if you’re going to compete with me you have to do the same thing.’
Piers says that for all successful athletes there must be that little bit of suspicion that they’ve taken something illegal.
Mo says: ‘It does annoy me a lot. The whole reason I moved to the US to be coached by Alberto Salazar is to be able to improve 1 or 2 per cent.  I was sick of coming sixth in the world, seventh in the world, and get close to a medal, but not quite there, half-a-second, and that’s why I moved to the other side of the world, and my training and a lot of stuff has changed, so people automatically think…sometimes it frustrated me.’
Has there ever been a tiny bit of temptation to take anything?
‘No,’ responds Mo, ‘I don’t see it…and for me, I’ve won a lot of medals, and I’m clean, and I can’t do it, I’d never do that.  If I were to have anything in terms of our sports and how we make it better, same rules apply to us that should be applied to the rest of the world.’
Mo’s mum wishes her son had a ‘normal job’
Talking about his mum, Mo says: ‘She doesn’t agree with me running, she thinks I should have a normal job, a proper job, maybe sitting in an office…when I finish a race I’m always shattered, knackered, sweaty, on the floor, and she’s like ‘I can’t watch you, why are you putting yourself through this?’’
Controversy surrounding Mo signing up to run half of the London marathon
Piers then mentions the controversy surrounding Mo signing up to run half of the London marathon in 2013. Would he do it again knowing the reaction he got?
Mo says: ‘To be honest with you, and this is the honest truth, I did not get paid a penny to run that half marathon. (I got) all that aggro for nothing…all I did it for is that I knew I was going to run (it) the following year so my aim was to be able to try and learn as much as I can in that race, to do some tests, see how we go, but I wasn’t getting paid a penny. Obviously they pay for my travel, whatever, but nothing (no race fee).’
Mo’s collapse at the New York marathon
Talking about when he collapsed at the New York Marathon in 2014, he says: ‘In the race I fell over and I pushed so hard to try and catch the guys up and I just gave it everything I could, a combination of falling over and the cold…I could feel like everything kind of moving, and I was just feeling dizzy, but my aim was to just get to the finish line, that was it.’
What made Mo set up his Mo Farah Foundation?
Mo answers: ‘What made me set that up…I went with my wife Tania and (daughter) Rhianna to Somalia and I saw the kids not having nice clothes, not having clean water, just no one there to look after them, that really touched me, and I was like, ‘We have to change something’…and me and Tania set it up….to support the kids, help them, it’s going well, it’s changing people’s lives. I want to be able to help people to help themselves.’
Rio Olympics
Does Mo think he can do the double again at the Olympics in Rio next year?
He says: ‘I want to definitely do it.  My aim is to go out there and see if I can retain my titles…and after that I’ll probably maybe give it one more year on the track, where we have the London 2017, and then I’ll probably run one or two marathons and retire…I want to be able to spend time with my family…it would be retiring from running, not retire in terms of becoming a coach or giving something back to the sport. We have to do something in Britain in terms of bringing the next Mo, in the years we had Coe, Ovett, Cram…’
Mo’s Legacy
What does Mo hope his legacy will be in years to come?
‘I want to be remembered as someone who did well for their country and collected as many medals as they can.  I want to see my charity grow, more involved in terms of offering scholarships to kids in the UK where we try to help them and just give back something because it’s very important to give back as well and I’m very lucky to have a life in Britain.’
What about if the Queen were to offer him the title of ‘Sir’?
‘I’d take it! It would be amazing. I’ve already got a CBE, I’m very honoured to have that.’
And would he ask the Queen to do his infamous Mobot: ‘I wouldn’t dare!’