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FAMILIES: Keep the kids active this Easter with Olympian and marathon man Mo Farah

By Weekend  |  Posted: April 18, 2014

Keep the kids active this Easter with Olympian and marathon man Mo Farah and Weetabix

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Olympic star Mo Farah is setting his sights on yet another goal; getting the country's children active. He talks to Lisa Salmon

Champion athlete, and national hero, Mo Farah might be giving his legs a well-deserved rest after running his first marathon, but he is not easing up on being an inspiration to the nation's children.

The long-distance runner, who won two gold medals at the London Olympics and recently finished eighth in the London Marathon, is fronting a new campaign designed to encourage children to get active and take part in sport.

His drive comes as a new survey shows that over half (55%) of the children questioned said they'd like to play more sport at school, with 47% willing to extend their school day to make sure it happened.

This could benefit the activity levels of mums and dads too, as 60% of parents questioned in the Weetabix poll said watching their kids play sport encouraged them to play more themselves - although perhaps that could be because half admit they played more sport in their youth than their child currently does.

Farah, a father-of-three, says: "I was very active as a child in Somalia - kids out there are running around all day, but in the UK, kids aren't nearly as active as they can be.

"As parents, it's our responsibility to inspire kids and get them as active as we can.

"And it's my responsibility as a parent and an athlete to get my kids active. In this day and age kids will just sit in front of a computer all day if you let them. But if we can get kids active on a daily basis, it will go a long way."

The 31-year-old hopes children will be encouraged to get involved in sport by fronting the Weetabix Ultimate Sports Day campaign, which is inviting children to design a unique and exciting obstacle they'd like to see at their own sports day. Two winners will then see their creations come to life at a day of sport at the Olympic Park this summer.

It's hoped the initiative will recapture some of the enthusiasm for sport created by the 2012 London Olympics. Certainly, Farah happily recalls the 'Olympic spirit' of that Super Saturday, when he, heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, and long-jumper Greg Rutherford all won gold medals.

"We didn't start off being the best when we were young though," Farah points out.

"It was years of hard work and dedication to get to the top, and it's important that we point young kids in the right direction.

"Kids need to start young in sport, and as a result of the Olympics we might have a few champions in the future.

"The legacy still goes on, but the Olympics only come round once every four years, and obviously things die down as time goes on, and what we're doing with campaigns like this is stressing that the Olympic memory is not to be forgotten."

The Weetabix survey found that just under one in five (18%) of the children questioned blamed general tiredness for preventing them from playing more sport, while a worrying 15% said they didn't play more because they got their sport fix from playing on games consoles.

Farah's twin daughters Aisha and Amani, who will be two in August, are a little too young to be fixated by computer games, but his stepdaughter Rihanna, who's nearly nine, enjoys them like all other kids her age.

"In the past, kids were running around more, but now they've got Playstations and Xboxes - there are so many different distractions for them that I think sometimes, as parents, we forget what we need to do to get them active," says Farah.

"Even as a parent myself, the kids like to go on the iPad but I take them to the park where they can run around."

He says Rihanna loves computer games, but he makes her jog a mile or two a day, or go swimming, as well.

"It's my duty to make sure she stays active and healthy," he says.

"She's not a big fan of running, she prefers swimming, but it's about getting exercise and getting them active - it doesn't matter what sort. This is what the Ultimate Sports Day is all about - getting the kids all together, exercising and having fun."

For Farah, for now, his own fun involves some well-deserved relaxation, after running his first marathon in London and finishing just 68 seconds outside the British record.

Although immediately after the race he said he would definitely do another marathon, he insists he hasn't given the matter any more thought for the time being.

""To be honest, I haven't had any more thoughts or discussions about marathons - I've just been trying to catch up with my kids and relax with my family.

"I feel fine, but 26.2 miles is a long way, and I just feel generally tired."

:: Mo Farah is working with Weetabix to help inspire kids to get more active through the Ultimate Sports Day campaign which offers them the chance to take part in their dream sports day.

:: For more information, visit www.ultimatesportsday.co.uk

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