Science

Why Breaking Records is the Greatest Motivator

Mo Farah, July's guest editor, reflects on how the desire to create historic legacies and break records is the strongest motivator.Wednesday, July 4, 2018

By Mo Farah
Photographs By Greg Williams

In the July 2018 magazine we welcome Mo Farah as guest editor. The latest issue is on sale now.

"At just over 26.2 miles, a marathon gives you plenty of time to think. Some call it the loneliness of the long-distance runner. Even though I’ve switched from long-distance track athletics to the even longer distance of marathon running, I’ve never felt lonely in the slightest, however.

That’s because, as I train, my mind is constantly whirring. In the run-up to a marathon I clock up around 130 miles a week on the park trails near my home in west London. During all that time I think about all the hard grafting I've done over the years; I remind myself of the goals I still want to achieve; and I think about my wonderful family. All this motivates me enormously.

Mental motivation is just one of the weapons that all professional athletes – whatever their sport – have in their armoury. In the July 2018 issue, our lead article on human performance analyses all the ways athletes drive themselves to achieve ever more astonishing records.

Funding and facilities, of course, play a major role. The advances in sports science, psychology and equipment technology over the last couple of decades have also been astounding. And we shouldn’t underestimate how much sportsmen and women are motivated by the huge amounts of prize money on offer.

I often wonder how much sporting success is down to nature, and how much is down to nurture. It’s a question close to my heart since I am one of two identical twins. Even though Hassan and I live radically different lives – he in Somaliland, me in the UK – I believe that, given the same facilities and opportunities as me, my twin could have achieved similar results. He’s equally driven.

Ultimately, though, I think the strongest motivational factor for everyone in sport is the desire to set historical legacies and break new records. In my sport, marathon running, the two-hour barrier has become an almost mythical milestone, similar to the four-minute mile barrier broken by Sir Roger Bannister back in 1954. I believe there’s a good chance it will be broken within the next decade. As to who will break it, we’ll have to wait and see."