Kenenisa Bekele has found it. The Ethiopian distance runner is one of only four men to have successfully defended an Olympic 10,000m title, in itself, a remarkable achievement. But he is far from satisfied.
On August 4 he hopes to do what his compatriot, Haile Gebrselassie, Finland's Lasse Viren and the great Czech, Emil Zatopek could not, and enter the history books as the only three-time 10,000m gold medallist.
Since that muggy night in Beijing four years ago, when he covered the last lap in a blistering 53.45 seconds – setting a new Olympic record of 27:01.17 – he has harboured this seemingly impossible dream. But there have been times, especially after a shocking defeat at the 2010 Great Edinburgh Cross Country race, when his motivation plummeted and his commitment was questioned.
Following a series of humiliating defeats on three continents, Bekele did enough last weekend to earn his place on Ethiopia's Olympic team and keep his dream alive. The 30-year-old finally showed a resemblance of his past form winning the British Olympic trials in a British all-comers record of 27:02.59. Although his time was well off his world record of 26:17.53 he was positively euphoric.
"I am so happy, I am feeling good now. It's fantastic," he told the Sunday Herald. "I felt a lot of pressure [to run well] because it is very close to the Olympics, close to the Olympic [qualifying] closing time. It was a crazy time for me. Now I am so happy, I want to thank God."
The victory brought relief and was sweetened by the fact his younger brother Tariku, with whom he trains twice a day, was next across the line in 27:03.24. The thought of the Bekele brothers lining up together in London will have sent a shockwave through the Kenyan training camp. A Kenyan hasn't won the men's Olympic 10,000m in 44 years.
Britain's Mo Farah, whose performances this season have thrust him into the favourite's role for the 5000m/10,000m double, was among those inside Birmingham's Stadium curious no doubt to see Bekele's finish. Farah had run the 1500m heats a half hour earlier and was warming down in an adjacent area when he got the results. Whether he was among those who had written the Ethiopian off is doubtful; Farah is much too astute. But with another month of training he knows Bekele will be in fine form. Bekele, meanwhile, was over the moon with his brother's performance.
"I am so happy especially for [Tariku's performance]," said Bekele. "It was very important for us to be first and second because we never know what the federation will decide. There are always things that can go wrong.
"It was an okay race. It was a little bit windy so it was not so fast. I was so comfortable. I was kicking with the others. I have a good kick and am very comfortable on the last lap. I could run around 26:40 [now] if the conditions were better, if the pace was faster and if the weather conditions were perfect."
Bekele credits his family, his coach and his manager, Jos Hermens, for believing in him as his recovery from a nagging calf injury dragged on over two years, testing his resilience and faith.
"My family, my wife, my friends, they all motivated me and were helping me," he said quietly. "Jos always encouraged me and he never gave up on me. He said I should try different doctors and not get stressed. All the time he told me 'you will be back again, you will run again. Don't worry about it'. He advised me. All the time he was behind me."
Winding his way through the Ethiopian selection process was also very complicated. Last summer he turned up at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu seeking a fifth consecutive world 10,000m gold medal but couldn't tolerate the early pace. Dejected, he dropped out. Nineteen days later he stunned the athletics world by running the season's fastest time of 26:43.16 in Brussels. It was a performance that he, at least, understood would solidify his position on the 2012 Olympic team. But the Ethiopian federation altered their thinking again.
They announced that the 2012 Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo on May 27 was to be the Ethiopian 10,000m trial, with the first two awarded Olympic spots. A third athlete was to be named later giving Bekele the opportunity to prove fitness. Tariku won that race in 27:11.70 but there were no announcements forthcoming from the federation.
"Time is very important," Bekele explained. "The time Tariku ran was not so fast. Because of that it was not easy to be selected for the Olympics by my federation.
"Of course, we are always talking and saying that he would like very much to be on the Olympic team with me. He knows my feelings and I know his feelings already because he is my brother. My brother is not looking at me as a rival sportsman. If we both make the team we will be happy."
Life for Bekele these days is far more complicated than when he burst on to the scene in 2001 by winning the IAAF world junior cross country championships. He is married to Ethiopian film star Danawit Gebregziabher and the couple have two young daughters. Once the girls are a little older, and Bekele's career has run its course, she plans to return to film, possibly as a director and a screenplay writer. He has admitted that he would like to produce her films. Meanwhile, he also owns a construction company which has built a cinema and a hotel in central Addis Ababa.
A sports academy is also close to completion just a few miles outside the city. It has a six-lane running track with an especially soft rubber surface to limit strain on calf muscles. Twice a week he has been doing speed training on it. A 100-room five-star hotel will soon open in the grounds.
"There are many things to think about with building the hotel and running," he admitted. "It is not easy. I have, of course, to work on my business. That maybe impacts on my running performance a little bit. Of course, my big problem has been the injuries."
Bekele will race only once before the Olympics, a 5000m in Paris on July 6. His friend and rival Bernard Lagat of the United States, the 2007 world 1500m and 5000m champion, will be in the field. Asked if he has more long-term goals, he thinks for a moment before answering.
"I have a dream to break another world record in 10,000m," he admitted. "Still I have a dream to do that. Maybe it will come true one day.
"Maybe one day I will run a marathon. But now I don't want to think about this. I am running on the track the 5000m and 10,000m. I don't want to think about road races at this time."
Of course he doesn't. There is a much bigger task at hand – capturing a third Olympic 10,000m gold medal. "If I can do it, it will be very special," he said. "Nobody has done it three times. Nobody. If I get the chance, maybe, it will be very nice. I will be happy. It will be a special moment for me.
"It is my target. I have to think about it every time I run. I am not worried. If I will do it, it will be a good chance for me. But I don't worry, I don't disturb myself. I have been to two Olympics. I don't want to miss [winning] this Olympics. It is a big goal."