Sep 4th 2011, and Mo Farah wins the 5,000 metres at the world athletics championships. You may ask ‘who is Mo Farah?’ or ‘so what?’ but the goal achievement lessons in his win are so glaring, so valuable, I had to write about them…
Long term readers will know I love my sport, and that includes athletics. Sport gives such clear illustrations of goal achievement in practice, that it’s easy to dismiss the value, to take them for granted.
I wanted to use this particular championships to write about the stories of certain athletes that didn’t win, and this included Farah, but instead I’m going to focus on the winning *and* losing of Farah. If that sounds confusing, then let me go over his story…
Mo came to England aged 8, as a refugee from Somalia. War torn, famine stricken Somalia. That in itself is a lesson about appreciating the abundance we have and take for granted, which is not enjoyed by everyone.
A natural runner, Mo rose through the ranks of British running, although it was always thought he would stay at level just below the world domination of athletes from countries like Kenya and Ethiopia.
In 2006 he started to get noticed at senior European level, but seemed to have problems with his preparation, often falling by the wayside in races with illness. Here’s where the really juicy stuff comes in…
Mo decided that something needed to change, or he would indeed be stuck at a level just below the world best. So, he got himself a new coaching arrangement, with Alberto Salazar, and that meant relocating to the US.
He’s always said in interviews that this was a real upheaval, affecting his family, but it was something he felt was a price worth paying if it produced results. The decision on whether you are prepared to pay the price for your goals is something I have written about for years.
The new set up did start to produce results, and in 2010 he became the first British athlete to run under 13 minutes for 5,000 metres (around 3 miles). Now he was someone that the Kenyans and Ethiopians had to take serious notice of.
So, to the world champs in 2011. Going into the 10,000 as the fastest in the world for the year, he was expected to get a medal at the least, and probably the gold. The fast finishes at the end of modern distance races are frighteningly fast, and Mo set off with one lap to go. He had set off maybe 100 metres too early though, and was reeled in by Jeilen from Ethiopia a few metres from the line.
Silver was a great achievement, but in Mo’s mind he had not achieved his target. All that upheaval, all that progress, and the result had still not been guaranteed – that’s another massive goal achievement lesson, you cannot expect guarantees!
One week later, and it’s the final of the 5,000. Would Mo be sulking after the setback in the 10,000? Would his focus be as sharp as it needed? Had he made adjustments from his previous tactics?
No, yes, and yes! The sporting analysts had said Mo had gone too fast too early in the 10,000, and that a better tactic would be a gradual wind up of pace instead.
That’s exactly what he did in the 5,000, and with anxiety all over his face down the home straight, he held on to become the first British male to win a global track title in the distance races.
Can you see the goal achievement nuggets here? Not only was Mo prepared to make sacrifices, you can clearly see in the space of a few days how he reacted to a setback and made a change. Although there were still no guarantees, in the end it has produced the goal he wanted.
You may not want to be a champion athlete, but that’s not the point. The lessons on display here are classic components of goal achievement, no matter what your own goal may be!
I’ll sign off with a clip of the final lap, you can watch Mo in full flight.
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