21 Aug

Why Mo Farah Must Attempt A World Record

Mo Farah

Where now should we rank Mo Farah in the history of running? It is a question that has been rumbling through the media and across internet forums since another incredible distance double at last week's World Athletics Championships (writes Chris Broadbent).

By winning 5000m and 10,000m gold in Moscow he repeated his feats of the 2012 London Olympics and won his 10th major championship on the track. It left most experts debating his status in the sport, not just in the modern era, but all-time. His name is now mentioned in the same breath as Daley Thompson and Seb Coe as being amongst the best British athletes ever. The least he deserves is to be alongside those greats and he has now probably edged above other British legends such as Kelly Holmes, Sally Gunnell and Steve Ovett.

Even more significantly, having become a multiple global champion, he is now edging closer to the elite band of all-time distance runners that includes Finland's Lasse Viren, Czech legend Emil Zatopek and Ethiopian greats Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele. However, unlike Farah, those four icons succeeded across successive Olympic Games.Mo will have to wait until 2016 until he can join the other distance kings at the very top table of Olympic sport. So what now to enhance his status in the intervening years? Next April he is due to race the Virgin London marathon. It will be his first attempt at the full 26.2mile distance, having experimented by running to half-way in this year's race.

Should he win in London, it will be another brilliant title to add to his vast collection. But I am not sure it will be enough to bring him much closer to Viren, Zatopek, Gebreselassie and Bekele. It will prove he has an incredible range, having also mopped up the UK 1500m record this year. But to really enter the debate about who is the best ever, I believe Mo has to break a world record. It would be unfair to compare the times of Zatopek and Viren with times now, they are different eras.

Farah's era (I think he has done enough to earn an 'era') overlaps with Bekele's and Gebrselassie's and they have both clocked faster 5000m and 10,000m times. So, when the historians of the future come to assess each runner's merits and they see Mo wasn't as quick as the Ethiopians they are likely to be inclined to rank him lower; even if he does do another double in Rio There is an old cliché is athletics that records can be taken away from you, medals can't. There's no arguing is validity. But record-breaking is at the core of what the sport is all about. Athletics exists to see what is humanly possible.

That is why iconic records from athletes such as Roger Bannister, Bob Beamon, Paula Radcliffe and Jonathan Edwards have come to define their careers, arguably more so than the medals and titles they won. It doesn't matter that some of their records have now gone. They were people that redefined what was possible. Even for Seb Coe and Steve Ovett, their trading of the mile and 1500m records is a big part of their legacy.

That's why Mo Farah should make a world record attempt his priority in the next two years. He is an athlete at the peak of his powers. He has shown he has the speed and the endurance. Crucially, he will also have huge support of a home British crowd should he attempt a record in this country.

An athlete's peak is a small window of opportunity. When it is gone, it goes without warning and is gone forever. Mo Farah has already achieved more than British supporters ever dreamed was possible, now is the time to show the whole world what is possible.