Mo Farah's first test of 2016, as he prepares to defend his Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m crowns in Rio, will come in Scotland's capital city when he spearheads the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team challenge in the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country on Saturday 9 January.
For the 32-year-old home town hero of the London 2012 Olympics, who took his haul of global gold medals to a magnificent seven when he retained his World Championship 5000m and 10,000m titles in Beijing in August, the 8km event at Holyrood Park will mark a return to his racing roots.
Farah forged his distance running reputation as a winter mudlark and the reigning world, Olympic and European 5,000m and 10,000m champion will be contesting his first cross country race for five years when he lines up in the televised new year event.
As a 15-year-old, Farah made his name on the national scene as a runaway winner of the intermediate boys' race at the 1999 English Schools' Cross Country Championships in Luton. Seven years later, in 2006, he claimed his first international title when he won the senior men's race at the European Cross Country Championships at San Giorgio su Lugano in Italy.
Now, as he works towards the defence of his Olympic titles in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016, the leading light of the distance running world will be laying the groundwork with his first cross country race since he triumphed in the 8km Great Edinburgh International race in January 2011.
“It will be an important year for me in 2016 and I'm looking forward to returning to the Great Edinburgh Cross Country to kick off my season,” said Farah. “For many years cross country was a key building block for the year ahead and I'm pleased to add it to my schedule for the first time since I ran in Edinburgh back in 2011.”
Farah enjoyed a trailblazing time in 2015, opening with a world indoor two mile best on the boards in Birmingham in February, overcoming all challengers to retain his World Championship 5,000m and 10,000m titles at the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing, and setting a British and European course record as he finished his season in fitting style with a second successive victory in the Morrisons Great North Run.
“It was a fantastic feeling winning the Great North Run in front of a home crowd,” said Farah. “I'm sure there will be plenty of support in Edinburgh for my first event in 2016.”
It's a big year for Mo and this race is a serious part of his plan and programme." said Barry Fudge, Head of Endurance for British Athletics.
“Mo has previously built his base for a summer track season with cross country races over the winter season, so we see this as a fundamental part of his preparation as we build towards the defence of his Olympic titles in Rio – which is ultimately his main goal for 2016. He enjoys nothing more than running in front of the British public so this is a great way for him to kick off his most important of years.”
The Great Edinburgh International XCountry, televised live on BBC, is part of a New Year festival for runners of all abilities, based at Holyood Park, next to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
The popular Pure Gym Great Winter Run, held on a scenic 5km course that loops around Arthur's Seat, provides the public with a perfect opportunity to dust off the New Year cobwebs before watching the world's best test themselves in the international cross country races.
Entry to the Pure Gym Great Winter Run is available online at www.greatrun.org/winter