At just 21 years of age Mohammed Ahmed was one of the youngest in the field at the men’s 10,000 metre final at the London Olympics this summer.
Finishing with a time of 28:13:91, well off his personal best, Ahmed was nonetheless able to find the positives in his experience.
Now going forward with the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on his mind every day, these experiences will shape Ahmed’s next four years as he prepares for his next shot at the podium.
“Right after the race the focus was ,” said Ahmed, in a phone interview with the Observer. “You come out of the race and you want to try to come back and experience that again.
“Now I’m super-motivated. I’m on a motivational high right now so every day I go out and go for a run I’m thinking about that.
“I want to experience that one more time, with a fitness that will allow me to contend for an Olympic medal.”
Better fitness, he believes, will help him with the type of race that the front-runners in London dictated; slow with short bursts of quickness, before slowing right down again.
That’s not to say that Ahmed’s out of shape. After taking two weeks off following the Olympics, he’s now in his fourth week of mileage after easing himself back into his routine.
He hopes to quickly get back in 27:30 shape, his personal best time being 27:34:64 at the 2012 Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, nearly 40 seconds faster than his Olympic time.
With that pace and his experience with the speed-varying tactics of his Olympic rivals, Ahmed hopes to approach the next Games with strategic conditioning.
“I’ve learned from them,” says Ahmed. “When they made it so slow then started picking up in the middle it just shocked my system.
“I felt like at one point that my hamstring was going to rip from the number of surges we were doing so it was very different. Hopefully I can adapt my training similar to that racing style and I’ll be ready for the next one.”
Getting back to 27:30 shape, Ahmed hopes, will allow him to contend with British winner Mohammed Farah whose Olympic gold-medal winning time was 27:30.42.
Ahmed and Farah are linked not just by their sport, but also by their heritage. Their roots are from the same tribe, both originally from the city of Hargeisa, in Somalia.
“He’s great. [Farah]’s a good friend of mine and I started right next to him before the race,” said Ahmed.
“We walked into the stadium together, which is like a six-minute walk, and we were just talking to each other.
“I think I was the last one to talk to him before the race, just wishing each other well and saying encouraging things. His race was amazing so I’m very happy for him.”
With the 2012 Olympics in Ahmed’s rear view he returns to the University of Wisconsin where he hopes to defend the Badgers’ team title in NCAA track and add an individual title to his growing resume.