Haile Gebrselassie, the four-times World and twice Olympic 10,000m champion, clinched a commanding win at the Mitja Marató de Granollers Half-Marathon on Sunday (5 February). ‘The Emperor,’ in his first outing since his World Record 58:55* over the Half-Marathon distance three weeks earlier, clocked 1:00:08 for a commanding win.
Competing on an ideal day for distance running with temperatures in the 5º C (start) and 12º C (finish) range, the 32-year-old Ethiopian legend held off the challenge produced by Kenya’s Francis Kiprop, who finished second in 1:00:50.
After a relatively slow start it was Kiprop, whose previous best was 1:01:32, who controlled the pace, with only Gebrselassie in pursuit. The crucial moment came in the 14th kilometre when the Ethiopian upped the tempo and sped away. So frantic was his pace that he clocked a 2:35 split in the downhill 18th kilometre. After an initial 30:15 half, Gebrselassie closed with a 29:52 over the final 10.55Km. Gebrselassie sliced 1:25 from his 1:01:33 winning performance here last year.
'A true gentleman'
Juan Pedro Pineda, an Athletes' representative, and event organizer Toni Cornellas said that the race had reached an agreement with Gebrselassie prior to his World record run in Phoenix, Arizona, last month, and emphasized that “Despite that, he has not changed his price, and we really appreciate it. He’s a true gentleman."
“I have had a cold this week and I knew that another World best performance was unreachable here," the always-smiling Gebrselassie said. "I’m training on an average 220 kilometres per week routine, building up for the Flora London Marathon next 23 April.”
WR in London - 'It's not going to be possible'
Asked about the possibility of breaking Paul Tergat's 2:04:55 World record in the upcoming London race, Gebrselassie provided a frank assessment.
“I’m afraid that it’s not going to be possible," said Gebrselassie, who ran his personal best of 2:06:20 in Amsterdam last October. "Why? Because there will be so many strong marathoners such as Paul Tergat, Morocco’s twice World champion Jaouad Gharib, Italy’s Olympic champion Stefano Baldini and many more. So there will be so much surveillance between ourselves. Winning will be the most important thing and that will likely defeat the purpose of a new World best."
However, Gebrselassie firmly believes that the standard set by his rival and friend is well within his capabilities.
"Of course, I feel capable of bettering the World record on a given day but everything should be ideal, the pace, the weather, etcetera."
Gebrselassie also said that his training relationship with compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, who succeeded him as World record holder in the 5000 and 10,000m, has changed.
The two still train together at times, he said, "But I’m now a road runner and he’s a track specialist so we coincide on the endurance work but the track, and speed sessions are necessarily different.” The humble ‘Emperor’ added: “For many years he followed in my footsteps. Now, Bekele is the man to beat and I look up to him a lot."
In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s former World 10,000m champion Gete Wami ran to an easy 1:10:24 win, finishing 12th in the race overall.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF