For Mo Ahmed, 2017 was a record-breaking year.
In the five years since the 2012 Olympics, Ahmed has steadily progressed into being a truly world-class distance runner. But the 26 year old has greater expectations than just being a 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic finalist. He wants hardware.
Ahmed’s brilliant year started early. At the Millrose Games in New York in February, he smoked the Canadian two-mile record (8:13.16). He then travelled to Boston later that month and scorched the Canadian indoor 5,000m record in a blazing 13:04.60. That’s a world-class time for an outdoor 5K, making Ahmed’s run all the more jaw-dropping. Indoor tracks are considerably slower because they are only 200m and thus have tighter and more frequent turns. Notably, he took a whopping 15 seconds off the previous record, which had been set by another world-class Canadian, Cam Levins, a couple of years back. Ahmed’s time also ranks him just outside the top-10 in history, and the list of runners ahead of him is impressive, including former and current world record-holders. This performance also pairs nicely with his outdoor 5,000m national record from 2016 (13:01.74).
The native of St. Catharines, Ont., then snatched up a national title in the 5,000m, and set his sights on winning his first global medal at the IAAF World Championships in London. In the 10,000m final, he set yet another national record in 27:02.35, peeling over five seconds off Levins’ previous mark. But Ahmed was disappointed with the result. For him, it’s not about time so much as place, and he finished eighth in the 10,000m. He followed that up a week later with a sixth in the 5,000m final. To put that into perspective, only one other athlete in both events placed higher than Ahmed: Mo Farah, who is arguably the greatest 5,000m and 10,000m runner in history.
But a competitor like Ahmed has no problems comparing himself critically to someone like Farah, and wanting to be better. “Honestly, one of the things that I’m really sick of is ‘best Canadian finish,’ ‘best Canadian this.’ I want to be the best in the world,” Ahmed said to the Canadian Press while in London, illustrating his plan for 2018 and beyond.
In August, Ahmed capped off his 2017 track season with one last record, the outdoor 3,000m, taking away one of those held by the great Kevin Sullivan. Ahmed ran 7:40.49 in Croatia, yet again showing off his enormous range as an endurance athlete.
Through all of this, Ahmed is now also playing an important role as a mentor for another Canadian talent, Justyn Knight, who should keep Ahmed on his toes, and pushing past the elusive sub-13:00 5,000m and sub-27:00 10,000m barriers.
The Golden Shoe Awards are CR‘s annual year-end recap and the 2017 edition originally appeared in the January-February 2018 print issue.