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It just so happened that Day 34 of the UNE occupation of Tua was one of them. UNE soldiers would return to base in banged-up APCs, chattering to and fro about taking out rebel holdouts or how boring it was patrolling destroyed cityscapes. Gareth could tell from their tone whether or not they were green, whether or not they’d been involved in the warfighting of the past three years. Greenies didn’t know what it was like on the frontlines, when it would be difficult to tear his eyes from the screaming of soldiers destined to die in prefab medical facilities as he cleaned blood and guts out of tanks and trucks. He’d hose them down, fill buckets full of body liquids. However hard he tried, the smell never seemed to go away.
But that was during the early days of the war. It happened less and less as they began to understand how to fight the Tuani properly and, in the past month, Gareth hadn’t even seen so much as a lick of blood from any of the vehicles he serviced. What he did see, however, was an overabundance of carelessness from these rookie soldiers, and the fact that their APCs were often so shot up was definitely a worrying symptom. Career soldiers would know how to avoid getting into scrapes they didn’t have to and would know how to take care of their, frankly, very valuable equipment; greenies had no appreciation for that kind of thing. After all, humanity had won. They were only mopping up rebel cells, not fighting real enemy combatants. What did they have to worry about?
All of this made him feel like an old fart. He’d spent too much of the occupation yelling at soldiers to do their jobs, to - for Christ’s sake - actually have some modicum of respect for the things saving them from getting blasted apart by plasma rifles.
“You look grumpy today,” commented Sarah, his inferior and unofficial protege.
She worked diligently on fixing a smoking electric engine in a nearby humvee, which had somehow overloaded the previous night. Sarah had no idea how that could’ve happened, but Gareth suspected that it might have had something to do with the power fluctuations they were experiencing from the hastily-setup solarelectrial grid. Either that or these greenies had decided to hook up their video game consoles to the mainframe and eat up the reserve power, causing the lines to default on themselves. Gareth grumbled to himself when he had that thought; he was definitely becoming an old fart.
“I hate greenies,” he said, sighing. He sat, legs dangling, on a disassembled tank frame as he watched Sarah work, nodding as she made each adjustment.
“Am I a greenie?” she asked.
“What?” He blinked. “No, you’re not a greenie. You’ve been in the service for, what, a year now?”
“Yeah.” Sarah made a gesture of acknowledgement. “Wouldn’t I still be green, though? I wasn’t around when the war started. Actually, I was in high school.”
“Gee,” mumbled Gareth, sitting cross legged on the tank frame and putting his hands behind his head, as if there was some subconscious thought in the back of his mind urging him to make himself look younger. “Thanks for making me feel like an old man.”
Sarah grinned at him. “How old are you again?”
“None of your business, kid.” Gareth scowled, to which she laughed. “Get back to work.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
They worked in relative silence for a while after that, the only sounds in the garage coming from Sarah’s tools. Gareth could see that she had decided that it would be simpler to remove the engine chassis entirely if she wanted to get to the bottom of the overload issue, and he was proud that his troubleshooting instincts had so cleanly been passed onto his protege. He crossed his arms, letting his mind wander.
“What are you thinking about?” Sarah asked, out of the blue. “Or is that none of my business, too?”
“You’re getting pretty inquisitive,” he said.
“I’m always inquisitive,” she replied with a slight smile. “Come on, old man. Something’s bothering you. Spill.”
It was his turn to chuckle. He decided it wouldn’t be altogether a bad idea to talk about everything that had been bothering him lately. “You know I hate greenies.”
“Yeah, you complain about them every time one of them walks by. So, like, every two seconds. That’s what’s bothering you?”
“Alright, smartass. You’re lucky that I’m too nice to send you out to repair the mechs.” Gareth tried to put on a grumpy expression, but the lightness of Sarah’s tone was getting to him and he couldn’t bring himself to do it. “No, that’s not what’s bothering me. Well, partially.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “Overconfidence. That’s what’s bothering me.”
“Overconfidence?” she repeated.
“We haven’t won yet,” Gareth said, getting off the tank frame and dusting himself off. He stood, a little uneasily, and looked off toward the garage doors, out at the rest of the military installation. “Believe it or not, the war isn’t over.”
Sarah cocked her head. “That’s not what everyone else is saying.”
“Yeah,” he said concomitantly. “We’ve won. On paper. But we haven’t won the hearts and minds of the people yet. That’s a whole hell of a lot harder than fighting battles.”
“Why do we care so much, anyway?” Sarah asked. “We won the war. They surrendered. We take care of any resistance and then absorb their planets as part of our territory. Why do we care what they think of us?”
“That’s a good question.” Gareth didn’t have an answer, but he could speculate. “Listen, I’m just a mechanic. We’re both just mechanics. But our job here isn’t to fight. We’re here to help them.”
“I don’t get why we’re doing that either,” said Sarah.
“‘Cause it’s the decent thing to do,” replied Gareth. “The human thing.”
“I guess.” Sarah paused, staring at the engine with blank eyes. “They killed my brother, you know. At the Second Battle of Erasmus, early in the war. Do they deserve mercy for that?”
Gareth already knew this. Sarah might not remember that night very much, but they’d both gotten drunk fairly soon after she’d begun her tutelage under him. During that whole debacle, she had cried her eyes out about her brother. It turned out that both Sarah and her twin sister Margot joined because of his death, some kind of survivor’s guilt driving them to want to serve their country. Do what their brother couldn’t or wasn’t given the opportunity to. Their parents had tried to stop them, but you can’t stop kids from doing what they want. Part of him wanted to tell Sarah that she was right. That they didn’t deserve mercy. That they should all die like the imperialist aliens that they were. He clicked his teeth together, unsure of what to say next.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” He looked at her, gaze distant. “Did they deserve us killing millions of their civilians when we launched unilateral orbital strikes on four major cities without direct provocation?”
Sarah remained quiet. There was silence for a few minutes, and in the meantime she began finishing repairs on the humvee engine. He mentally cursed. Gareth knew that trying to create some kind of moral equivalency between one soldier’s death and the measures by which one side uses to end a bloody war was not something his apprentice needed to hear. He wanted to say something, apologize maybe. He didn’t know for what. Thankfully, he was saved by the bell. Another banged-up APC entered the base, and Gareth could see from a distance that the driver was joking around with the front security guards.
He sighed. “We’re getting sloppy,” he mumbled to himself. He went out to meet the APC, but Sarah stopped him. He didn’t see her get up, almost didn’t notice when she grabbed his arm.
“Hey,” she said softly. “Let me take care of this.”
That was a surprise. “You sure?”
“Yeah,” she said, that familiar smile returning to her face. “You’re stressed out. I just finished on the engine. Let me do it. And, how about this, you’re buying at the bar tonight. Deal?”
Gareth returned her smile with a grin. “Deal.”
She bumped her fist against his and he watched as his protege went out to do his work for him. There were definitely times when it helped to have someone on hand like Sarah, who was easy to work with and cool under pressure. The occupation wasn’t turning out to be very difficult now, but Gareth knew that it would take years before any kind of real change could be put into effect. And in the meantime, he’d keep doing his job. Regardless of how much these greenies bugged him. He chuckled at the thought.
Gareth checked the engine that Sarah had fixed. It was back in the humvee and everything looked perfectly kosher. That was another thing he liked about her; she was good at her job. He liked to think that it was his lessons, but he knew that she held a natural talent for it. She’d probably get promoted far faster than him, overtake him in rank at some point. Needless to say, he was not looking forward to the teasing that would inevitably ensue.
Nodding to himself after a thorough inspection, Gareth was prepared to leave and get some much needed shuteye when he felt it.
The ground quaked, the air rippled. A bright blue flash brought his eyes toward the newly-arrived APC, positioned near the center of the base and close to a collection of barracks. For a second, Gareth was confused - and, in that same second, there was complete silence. The following moment was when Gareth understood, when he was almost knocked off his feet. A huge explosion erupted where the APC had been, the sudden loud screaming of military personnel drowned out by the ringing in his ears.
Grabbing onto the tank frame to steady himself, Gareth tried to make sense of the situation. The momentary confusion lifted and he looked with horror at what had happened. Immediately, everything from ordnance training came rushing back and his mind started working at a mile a minute. Blue flames had engulfed the APC, and was now quickly spreading through the barracks. Blue flames. That could only mean one thing - some kind of plasma explosive was at fault. Probably stuck to the bottom of the APC, unnoticed by whoever had driven it into the base. He cursed loudly. He was right. They had become sloppy.
But that was when he stopped thinking like a soldier. Because he remembered.
He ran, as quickly as his legs could take him, to the scene. As he got closer, he felt how hot the flames were, and he didn’t doubt for a second that this was the closest thing to hellfire that he could feel in this life. He stopped just short of the APC and looked around. It was chaos. Personnel were bringing out hoses and foam, trying their best to stop the fire. It was covering the barracks now and Gareth hoped that there wouldn’t be too many people in there - but the screaming was audible now. The screaming…
He shook his head and looked around. There were corpses around him, still scorched and burning. The smell hit him and his stomach lurched. It was worse than what he’d smelled during the early days of the war. Worse than the stench of death that seemed a permanent fixture on the frontlines. His jaw clenched and he found it hard to breathe.
Gareth found her after too long searching. Her legs were missing, there was blood all over her, and half her body was covered in bits of metal. But she was screaming. That, at least, meant one thing: she was still alive.
“Medic!” he yelled, louder than any other word in his life.
She tried her hardest to replicate her old morning routine at Gashara University, when she was training to be a dancer. For the past week, she would go through exercises in her hospital bedroom. First, she would begin meditating in front of the window - which required that she move a table in front of in order to sit on. She found herself praying a lot during that process, hoping that her parents and friends might be found in the rubble - but she honestly didn’t know who she was praying to. It was the Emperor before, but he was dead now and along with him the old regime. Her heart always sank when her thoughts drifted to that subject, but the pain had begun to dull in recent days.
That would go on for a little while until she started physical exercises. Those bothered her less than mental ones, since she could focus on the way her muscles ached instead of whatever emotional turmoil had decided to invade her mind on a given day. Much to her dismay, she discovered that her physical capacities had atrophied in the twenty days she spent locked up in the bunker, when she was desperately trying to conserve energy and food. But she was in Human hands now and, as strange as it was, given better food and drink than she ever had in her life. If there was one thing she could appreciate about the Humans, it was their how good they were at cooking.
She was in the middle of a particularly painful squat when her ears twitched. One advantage Kenxa knew that Tuani had over the Humans were their aural and olfactory acuity, and so it wasn’t difficult for her to pick up on the sudden increase of foot traffic outside her room. Halting, she poked her head out into the hallway with a measure of concern. Human personnel, doctors and soldiers, were moving with more purpose than they had been in the past few days - and she could spot expressions of worry on their faces.
Kenxa focused for a moment, closing her eyes and trying to make sense of the hushed whispers everyone was giving each other. It seemed that they didn’t want the displaced Tuani inpatients to hear what was going on, but couldn’t resist gossiping.
“...proper treatment for plasma burns…”
“...sure to get inspection teams on every single vehicle that comes through…”
She couldn’t really make sense of what was being said, but it was probably better that she didn’t. It sounded dangerous, and Kenxa wanted to be as far away from danger as possible. She’d seen how bad it could get; she didn’t need to see more of it. Kenxa retreated back into her room and tried sitting still, but her anxiety kept getting to her. She wondered why she felt so nervous all of a sudden, why everything had the feeling of an electrical current. Like she could be zapped at any moment.
Kenxa stood up. There was really only one thing that could get her mind off of anything.
She moved to the widest area in the room and pushed her feet upward until she was standing on the tips of her four toes. Raising her arms high above her head, she closed her eyes and held her breath. Kenxa was as still as water for exactly ten seconds, then she began. Her routine. Her favorite one. The one she could do in her sleep. She’d spend untold hours, entire days really, practicing it. It required the use of swivelling ribbons wrapped daintily around her waist, and the dance lost some effect, surely, due to her not wearing the traditional robes. But it was a beautiful sight, she thought, and the technique of it all was enough for her to get her mind to stop wandering. To relax. To become one with the flow of her body, to enrich her connection with the Spirit World. For a moment, she swore that she could see eternity.
Then her ears twitched.
Her beady eyes opened and she saw Mark standing at her doorway, with a box in his hands and an amused expression on his face. Immediately, Kenxa stopped her routine, an action which felt unnatural and disorientating. For some reason, her face felt flush with embarrassment. Her dance was something very special to her, an expression of her very being and the closest thing she had to a true creation of art. For this Human to have seen it… it made her cheeks burn.
“I’d clap,” he said with a smile. “But I’m carrying a box.”
Kenxa could only blush harder and turned her face away, though she doubted that he’d be able to see any reddening past the orange of her fur. She moved to her bed and sat down, crossing her legs, and urging him to sit with her. That was the polite thing to do, after all, and Kenxa wanted desperately to cling onto every social protocol and ingrained tradition that she could grab onto. Even if it did involve consorting with Humans.
“It’s okay,” she said, voice soft.
“I wanted to bring you your stuff.” Mark pushed the box in her direction, and Kenxa was quick to grasp it. Opening the box, she saw that it was filled with everything that she had on her person when she left the bunker. The filtration mask, her clothing, and various accoutrement that she’d forgotten about in her daze. It was all pristine and clean, which surprised her, and it would have been tough to tell that this had all been through a warzone.
“We wanted to decontaminate your things just in case the fabric absorbed any particles. Thankfully, you weren’t in the blast zone long enough for anything to have been permanently affected. Actually, it’s pretty lucky. Most of the other patients here lost everything. At least, you still have these.”
Kenxa nodded absentmindedly at Mark’s words. She appreciated what he’d done, she really did, but she was intent on searching inside the box for a very specific item. It took her a little too long, in her estimation, to find it - but she felt relief grip her being when she did.
Cyax’s stupid necklace. The green gem in the middle was still as bright as ever. Kenxa smiled, maybe for the first time in over a month, and she held it in a tight fist. Finally. She’d spent a whole day fruitlessly looking through the corridors for any Tuani that she recognized, but she saw only strangers - and they were just as distraught and confused as her. Now, at least, Kenxa had a piece of home that she could keep with her. That could give her hope.
Slowly, she turned to Mark and bowed slightly. “Thank you,” she said.
A brief silence ensued and Kenxa probably spent a little too much time running her fingers over the silver necklace until finally putting it back around her neck. She sent a silent prayer of thanks to whatever gods happened to be listening.
Though it didn’t take long until she detected, for the second time, a sudden rush of activity in the medical ward.
“What’s going on?” she asked, curious.
Mark had the briefest moment of hesitation, as if he was considering lying to her. Kenxa didn’t like that; if nothing else, Mark had been incredibly honest with her during the last few days. It was one of the only things she could count on as a stable truth. Thankfully, what Mark did say seemed to be the truth, though that didn’t make what he said any less distressing.
“There was a coordinated attack on a number of our prefab installations near Kastor,” he said slowly, clearly trying to parse through what would be the most relevant information. “A lot of people died. Over a hundred soldiers and civilians.”
“Oh,” responded Kenxa lamely. “I’m sorry to hear about that.”
It felt strange to express sympathy for the Humans’ loss. It wasn’t too long ago that she was spouting venom at Mark, yelling at him for killing millions of her people. Yet it felt wrong to say nothing, to leave herself voiceless. Clearly, any loss of life was an injustice. And, after all, the Humans had won the war. Trying to change that by bombing their installations was only going to make the military occupation worse. In fact, it might make life all the more difficult for the people who were just trying to live their lives in the wake of everything that had happened.
Kenxa’s thoughts drifted back to the beginning of the war. She had still been living in Kastor at the time and she remembered how the newsreels had spun the story. The Tuani Empire rightfully owned the planet of Erasmus, claiming that the Farysha Union had ceded the world to the Emperor during a war over a hundred years prior. The United Nations of Earth, however, had decided to use the planet as a military installation without consultation from any other intergalactic powers. So, naturally, it made sense for the Tuani Empire to retaliate. They swiftly drove UNE forces away and took back control of the planet. And so began the war, because of a slight against the divine Emperor.
The truth, as it turned out, was a fair bit more complicated than that. It was only through a sideways interpretation of the Farysha-Tuani peace treaty that Erasmus could be seen as part of Tuani territory, but the Empire was more than happy to claim that it won more land than it actually did. The Farysha Union, weakened as they were from the war, was in no position to argue unless the Tuani actually did something with the land - which they never did. It wasn’t too long afterward that the Farysha joined the Galactic Concordat around the same time as the United Nations of Earth. As part of a goodwill agreement, the Farysha allowed immigration to Erasmus and, eventually, greenlit the construction of an orbital shipyard.
No one bothered the shipyard for close to twenty years. Until the Tuani Empire, in all of its isolationist glory, began to run low on resources. Their latest war had drained them and they had been running on fumes for a number of years, causing no end of economic turmoil among their territories. The Emperor scrambled for a way out - and so he turned to old documents that spoke of alternative interpretations regarding Imperial territory. Erasmus was a mineral-rich world. Taking it would solve a majority of the Empire’s woes, but claiming it would be no simple task. With no diplomatic ties to anyone in the Concordat and not exactly on speaking terms with the Farysha, the Empire resorted to doing the only thing they had ever been good at. They attacked - and hoped that the quick destruction of the Humans’ shipyard and the swift, brutal occupation of the planet would scare them out of wanting to retaliate.
One only had to look outside the window, at the bleeding skies of her homeworld, to see how that worked out.
On some level, she could sympathize with the rebels. See where they were coming from. Why they’d want to get back to the way things were. But Kenxa knew those days were over. Trying to bring back the old regime was only going to end in disaster. And now the rebels had gone and made the same mistakes as their military predecessors before them. Attacked the humans. Awakened the sleeping giants. And their wrath would surely fall on them. She badly wanted them to get in line, do what their government had done. Surrender. So that they’d have some mercy. Because, as the spirits knew, they wouldn’t have mercy otherwise.
“Are you alright?” asked Mark in a soft voice.
There was a lot on her mind, but Kenxa had the wherewithal to nod. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve just been doing a lot of reading on the infonet is all. I… didn’t know what I had been missing.”
“Reading up on history?” he inquired.
“It’s a little different from what you’ve been told, isn’t it?”
“That’s a bit of an understatement,” Kenxa said. Mark smiled at that, though she hadn’t meant it to sound as cheeky as it turned out.
“Hey.” He suddenly grabbed her hand, to which she couldn’t help but involuntarily blush. “How often have you been out of this room?”
“Maybe… once or twice?” Kenxa tilted her head. What was he suggesting?
“Let’s go get some fresh air,” he said with a wide grin. Despite how strange these Humans looked, Kenxa was beginning to get used to them and - as it turned out - one the things she grew to like was Mark’s smile. So, she nodded.
Still holding onto her hand, he led her down corridor after corridor. Kenxa desperately didn’t want to pay attention to any of the other Tuani here, who were in various states of distress. It was hard enough living in an unknown environment without constant reminders of her people’s folly. And maybe that was cowardly of her, but she found it difficult to care. Still, it didn’t take long for them to get outside.
The entire facility was basically a prefabricated town, from what she’d gathered. Collections of interlocking structures had joined together once they were on the ground, creating a harmonious synthetic ecosystem that held everything from medical facilities to entertainment spaces to migrant housing. The design reminded her of a walled city and the town’s artifice was exposed by its metallic base, remnants from its planetary descent. It was clear from the design philosophy that this was something that the Humans had been testing for a very long time, and it was put to extremely efficient use on the surface of Tua.
Mark led her to a small park, where Kenxa observed some Tuani citizens were roaming. It seemed that, after the orbital bombardment, the Humans were gracious enough to let the Tuani stay in these prefab facilities until they could be properly relocated to other cities. She didn’t know whether that was kindness or some kind of cruel irony. But she was grateful for a place to stay, nonetheless.
“Smell that fresh air,” said Mark, before taking in a deep breath.
Kenxa thought the command to be strange, though still followed his lead. Suddenly, she understood. The oxygen felt good in her lungs and she briefly smiled. “That feels good.”
“Yeah, doesn’t it?” Mark smirked. Kenxa didn’t know if she liked the way a smirk framed Mark’s face, but she didn’t say anything. “That’s something we Humans like. Getting out into nature, exercising.”
“I like exercising,” remarked Kenxa.
“Yeah? You’re a dancer, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I… yes, I think.” Kenxa’s hesitation was obvious.
“You think?” It was Mark’s turn to be confused.
“I suppose I just don’t know anymore.” Kenxa looked down, and she realized how good it felt to have solid dirt - as synthetic and human-made as it was - underneath her toes. “I was training to be a dancer in the Emperor’s court. A courtier.”
“Ah. I think I get it.” He scratched his chin. “You think all your dance training’s going to go to waste.” Kenxa didn’t reply, but her silence spoke volumes. “That’s nonsense,” he finally said. “Humans love dancing. You’re going to fit in fine in the UNE.”
“I never finished learning ceremonial dance at my university,” dismissed Kenxa, shaking her head. “I might just change careers.”
“We have good dancing schools,” said Mark, though clearly a little unsure. “You could go to the London School of Ballet or Juilliard or something. I don’t know the specifics, I’m not a dancer. But there are places you can finish your education.”
She knew that Mark meant well, but that all sounded wrong to her. Kenxa wanted to remark about how important it was for her to learn Tuani dance. Maintain Tuani customs. Do things the way that a Tuani would. Maybe that was just another aspect of the delusions that needed to be wiped away. Still, she’d like to maintain those thoughts for the time being.
Mark elbowed her lightly as they reached the edge of the park which - as it turned out - was also the edge of the prefabricated town. It made way for a spectacular view. The countryside outside of Kastor was always a magnificent sight, though one that Kenxa hadn’t always been inclined to see, being an urbanite and all. Still, there was something comforting about seeing the rolling hills and - to the side - the ocean waves still as sparkling green as ever. Yes, something inside her said, everything would work out.
Then, the ground began to shake - and some sort of alarm bell began to ring.
Years of equilibrium training was enough to steady Kenxa, but she still found herself stumbling slightly as the ground itself began to move. “What’s happening?” she asked, worried that this might another attack, this time aimed at them.
Mark, for his part, looked totally unperturbed. “Oh, you’re in for a sight to see,” he said with a grin. “Hold onto something.”
Gripping a nearby tree branch, Kenxa wasn’t sure what to look out for. She gazed out at the horizon, waiting, when something strange began to happen. Was the horizon… going down? No, that couldn’t be right. Not believing her eyes, she walked close to the edge, but held onto a nearby railing. Mark joined her, concerned that she might fall over the increasingly precarious edge. No, her eyes weren’t deceiving her.
The town was lifting off.
The prefabricated, interlocking structures weren’t just a makeshift migrant facility. It was also a mobile fortress and, as Kenxa gazed downward at the base, she saw the massive engines pushing them upward. Kenxa had never flown before, never been this close to the sky. For a moment, a sense of wonder and awe seized her.
It took her a full minute of appreciating the sight before her, of being high above everything else for her to realize that there was a nagging question the back of her mind. “Why are we flying?” she asked.
“Lift-off protocol,” answered Mark. “All prefab facilities close to Kastor are being moved in response to the rebel attacks. Troops are getting mobilized. We have to make sure the occupying force and the displaced Tuani are safe. That includes you.” He pressed a warm finger against her chest and something inside of her felt better, especially since Mark made a point of singling her out.
Mark looked out at the horizon. “And here comes the cavalry.”
Kenxa turned and her eyes widened. She hadn’t noticed it amidst the panic, confusion, and strange excitement of the lift-off, but there was something encroaching. A huge starship, clearly a wedge-shaped human design, was coming closer and closer - and it was closing the distance with worrying speed. As she looked out at the massive ship, she understood with even more certainty why the Humans had so cleanly won the war. The thing was covered from end-to-end in guns and cannons, and could’ve easily been the size of a small city. Anyone that saw a sight like that wouldn’t dare try to fight on but, knowing her people, they’d be honor-bound to do so. It began to make increasing sense how the stubbornness of the Tuani had been their downfall.
And, as if the warship wasn’t enough, what looked to be dozens of small aerodynamic starfighters began pouring out, passing over the flying town with shrieking velocity. She turned to see where they were going - and saw them streaking above the city ruins, and bathing in the glow of the red skies.
The Tuani had been offered mercy. They were about to receive something else.
The Elites - Lap 4 - Mo Farah
Alright, here we go.
|University||St Mary’s University College|
|Links||Wiki, Website, Instagram, FB, Twitter, Snapchat|
|1500m||3:28.81 (European Record)|
|3000m||7:32.62 (National Record)|
|5000m||12:53.11 (National Record)|
|10,000m||26:45.57 (European Record)|
|Half Marathon||59:32 (European Record)|
|Marathon||2:08:21 (English Record)|
Mo was born in Somalia, but moved to Britain when he was 8. Originally he wanted to play for Arsenal (and he very well might after retirement), but found better success in running cross-country. When he was 14, he won an English school title, at which point Eddie Kulukundis paid for his naturalization to become a British citizen. I don’t expect you to know who Eddie is, but I guess he’s a Greek shipping millionaire who’s donated £2 million to athletes (technically, loaned). No, it’s not just you, it sounds like a mob deal to me too.
After University in 2005, Farah focused on professional running. He moved in with a bunch of 10,000m runners (including Micah Kogo) to train with them full time. After a year or so, he raced a 5000m and became the second fastest British runner (13:09.4). Paula Radcliffe actually gave him a pep-talk before his next race (European Championship 5000m), saying “Go out and be brave. Just believe in yourself.” He got Silver. The next year in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka he placed 6th.
Mo started running the 10000m in 2008, but still went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the 5000m. Disappointingly, he fell short of the finals. But in 2009, his performances just kept piling up on each other. He spend the winter in Kenya and Ethiopia, training at altitude, and when he returned he broke the indoor record for 3000m (7:40), and a few weeks later broke it again by over 6 seconds (7:34) at the Indoor Grand Prix. I can’t find a full video, but if you watch the last few laps, his form and speed are absolutely beautiful. Also look at that lil’ zamboni driving around the track, that’s terrifying.
A few times throughout this year, Farah needed medical attention at the ends of the races -- after getting Silver at the 2009 European XC Championships and Bronze at the Great Edinburgh XC. Concerned, he was tested and was lacking in iron and magnesium, so he started taking supplements for these.
And after some more training in Kenya, Mo came back in 2010 for a string of wins in the 10000m. He beat Micah Kogo in the 2010 London 10,000, PR’d by 16 seconds in the European Cup (27:28) (also winning by over 40 seconds -- I wish I could find a video of that race), and won the 2010 European Athletics Championship with a slow time of 28:24. He also won the 5000m at the same event, making him the fifth man to get the 5000/10000 double. In late 2010, he raced the 5000m Diamond League crossing at 12:57, making him the first ever British athlete to break the 13 minute barrier.
2011 saw Mo’s move to Portland, Oregon to begin training with Alberto Salazar (and also when he became best buds with Galen Rupp). Part of his reasoning for moving was also apparently to avoid the British tabloids (he’s the most searched non-football sports athlete on the UK version of Bing… if that means anything). His first month there, Mo and Galen were planning on racing a 10000m in New Zealand, but the earthquake there caused them to enter the NYC Half Marathon instead. He set a British record (1:00:23) in that race. In the 2011 Prefontaine Classic, he set a European record in the 10000m (26:46), and a month later a British record in the 5000m (12:53). Rolling off of these records, he followed it up with a Silver in the 2011 World’s 10,000m, and a Gold in the 5000m, making him the first British man to medal in either event.
Naturally, he was a shoo-in for the London 2012 Olympics, and being a British athlete, the crowd was going nuts (also, listen to the weird 70s porno track that the Olympic channel for some reason decided should accompany this). He cruised in for the win in the 10000m (27:30), but his 5000m performance that followed was pretty amazing. Watch his stride compared to the other guys that are trying to outkick him, it’s insane. The noise level in the stadium was so loud as Mo crossed for the Gold (13:41) that it literally shook the camera taking the photo finish.
In 2013, Mo broke the European 1500m record (3:28.81), making him the seventh man to break 3:30 and 13 minutes in the 5000m, and the only person in history to break 3:30, 13-minute, and 27-minute barriers (also has a sub 1 hr half, so it'll be tough to match). He also doubled in the World’s 5000m & 10000m, making him and Kenenisa Bekele the only two men to double the Olympics and World’s back to back.
Mo bumped up his training for a marathon debut, and ran the 2014 London Marathon, finishing in 8th place (2:08). He set an English record, but there was a really fast sheep (I assume) from Wales who still had the British record -- Steve Jones. Later that year he again doubled the 2014 European Athletics Championships, making him the most successful athlete in history at the event. In 2015, he again doubled in the World Championships, and this was months after breaking the world record in the two-mile (8:03) and breaking the European record in the Half Marathon (59:20).
“Modern-day” Mo hasn’t fallen short. In June he broke the British 3000m record. And a few months later ran the 5000m and 10000m in the Olympics. Bestie Galen Rupp spiked his heel in the 10000m, and somehow Mo managed to shake it off and win Gold (27:05). If you watch Rupp’s face, you can tell how it messed with him, and he actually slowed down (possibly sacrificing a medal) to look back and make sure Mo was okay. In the 5000m, Farah doubled his double, winning Gold yet again with a time of 13:03. He ran the Great North Run (half marathon) two weeks ago and won it for the third time in a row (1:00:04), emulating Alan Shearer’s goal celebration in the process.
None, officially. Saying that straight out. Though in this case I do feel I should list a few things.
First, he has a short history of TUEs (Theraputic Use Exemptions) of banned substances. A backdated one from 2008 for Triamcinolone, but the method in which he took it (injecting into joints) is no longer listed as banned because no evidence exists that ties it to performance enhancements. And another in 2014 for morphine, Vicodin, and IV saline, but all were in the hospital when he was recovering from a supposed heart attack.
Second, and this is where I’m going to do my best not to editorialize, but his coach, Salazar, has been accused of everything from abusing TUEs to testosterone injections for his athletes, including by former athletes of his. Combined with Mo missing two drug tests before London 2012, the rumor mill began spinning. Nothing has been proven, just more than a normal amount of rumors/accusations.
- After 2012, Farah was appointed CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). Many people, including David Cameron, feel that this was a sleight, as it’s a step down from Knighthood.
- Gossip warning: Mo and his wife made news recently in an airport in Atlanta when they didn’t get priority boarding, and his wife started berating and belittling the airline agent. The stuff she said is not great, but as far as I can tell all other reports of his wife are great, so I’m just gonna chalk this one up to a really, really bad day.
- Mobot. Or even better, Usainbot
- He’s Muslim, his full name is Mohamed, he lives in the U.S., and he travels a lot. In case you can’t do that math, airports are… not great. In fact coming home from London 2012 he literally showed customs the Gold medals and they still didn’t let him through. Poor guy.
- He has a children’s book called Ready Steady Mo! that tries to get kids to run. I really hope one of you has it or maybe we can lobby brwalkernc for next month’s book club.
- When he retires, he wants to work for Arsenal as their conditioning coach. The Gunners won’t know what hit ‘em.
- Paula Radcliffe was at his wedding.
Can’t find any, unfortunately. Does 2020 count as upcoming? He wants to run the Tokyo Olympic Marathon.
Training and Nutrition Mo is a member of Nike Oregon Project, so his training revolves around that. The Project works to focus on training, fix biomechanical issues, use top of the line Nike gear for everything from training to recovery, and has a scientific approach to everything nutrition, almost to an extreme. Underwater treadmills kind of extreme. Athletes living in a house where oxygen is removed to simulate living at high altitude kind of extreme. Recovering in a cryogenic chamber kind of extreme. But you can’t argue it’s success, as it’s produced Rupp, Adam/Kara Goucher, Centrowitz, and a bunch others.
Mo’s diet is the same as most elite athletes, high carb pasta and veggies, grilled chicken, no large meals, just small ones throughout the day. However he has Frosties for breakfast, which he says the sugar helps him through the day, so obviously I’m not gonna feel guilty about that anymore. After the Olympics he splurged on… one Byron burger. He also uses a sugary protein drink for training to stay hydrated, but it’s homemade so I can’t find what’s in it.
- Anecdotes/stories you’d like to share? Thoughts on Mo in general?
- Despite Mo’s absolutely incredible career, he only has one World Record. Is he one of the greatest tacticians we’ve seen, or do you think there’s another WR in his belt?
- We’re going to see this come up a few times more in the future, but how do you feel about Nike Oregon Project?
- Anything else you’d like to add?