DubaiThey have the world’s only sevenstar hotel; now they’ve got the world’s only 24 World record runner. Fresh from his two most recent World records**, last week, Haile Gebselassie of Ethiopia announced this morning in Dubai that he will compete in the next Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, scheduled for 18 January 2008. That, said for Gebselassie it will be his final marathon before the Olympic Games in Beijing later that year.
The event was recently upgraded, with the injection of a one million US dollars prize pot, with both men’s and women’s winners taking away $250,000 (double the biggest prize elsewhere). There is an additional one million dollars on offer from Dubai Holding to anyone (man, woman or both) breaking the marathon World record. Haile’s old rival, Paul Tergat of Kenya holds the men’s record, with 2:04:55, while Britain’s Paula Radcliffe has the women’s record of 2:15:25.
“I still have ambition,” said Haile, after a morning trot along the sand near the Dubai landmark, the Burj Al-Arab hotel. “My aims are to break the marathon World record, and win the Olympic Games marathon. I’d like to break the World record here in Dubai, and my training towards that begins tomorrow. Because if you ask which is the most important, I would say my priority is to break the World record.”
Asked if Beijing would be his swansong, his reply was emphatically negative, referencing famous Ethiopian predecessors. “I’m still only 34. If you look at Miruts (Yifter), he won the Olympics (1980 - 5000 / 10,000m) at 39, and Mamo (Wolde) was 40 years of age (1968 – marathon). I’ll only be 38 in London 2012, so why not?”
Gebrselassie didn’t do so well in London recently, having to drop out of the marathon in April, with what turned out to be a pollen allergy he didn’t know he had. “The doctor told me years ago that I had some allergies, but I didn’t remember what, and I think global warming made London full of pollen for this year’s race”.
But he stormed back in inimitable fashion. Having virtually given up the track three years ago, to concentrate on marathons, Gebrselassie got back onto the tartan after London, with a 10,000 metres in Hengelo, near his training base in the Netherlands, and ran 26:52.81. “That was extraordinary,” said his long-time manager, Dutchman Jos Hermens, “he only had three sessions on the track, and ran sub-27 minutes. If he did some proper speed work, I think he could still run 26.30”.
That performance persuaded Haile that he should have another crack at the One Hour Run and 20,000 metres world records, after a rare failure for him in 2002. He succeeded this time, in Ostrava, Czech Republic last Wednesday (27), when he ran 21,285 metres in the hour, having recorded 56:25.98 for 20,000 metres en route. They were his 23rd and 24th world records or bests**. Added, of course, to his two Olympic and four World 10,000 metres titles, and almost innumerable victories and achievements elsewhere, since he broke into the big-time, with a double victory, at 5000 & 10,000 metres, in the World Junior Championships in 1992.
Gebrselassie’s marathon best is 2:05:56, which he recorded in winning in Berlin 2006, making one of only five men under 2.06. He returns to Berlin in September for another run in the German capital. “Ideally, I’d like him to break the World record a little in Berlin,” said manager Hermens, “then a lot in Dubai.”
“This is undoubtedly a monumental day for athletics in the UAE (United Arab Emirates),” said Dubai race director, Peter Connerton. “Having Haile agree to run in Dubai takes the event to a completely new level”.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
* World records pending the usual ratification procedures
Haile's World records
1) 12:56.96 5000m Hengelo 04Jun94
2) 8:07.46 * 2 miles Kerkrade 27May95
3) 26:43.53 10,000m Hengelo 05Jun95
4) 12:44.39 5000m Zurich 16Aug95
5) 13:10.98 5000m Sindelfingen (i) 27Jan96
6) 7:30.72 3000m Stuttgart (i) 04Feb96
7) 12:59.04 5000m Stockholm (i) 20Feb97
8) 8:01.08 * 2 miles Hengelo 31May97
9) 26:31.32 10,000m Oslo 04Jul97
10) 12:41.86 5000m Zurich 13Aug97
11) 7:26.14 3000m Karlsruhe (i) 25Jan98
12) 4:52.86 * 2000m Birmingham (i) 15Feb98
13) 26:22.75 10,000m Hengelo 01Jun98
14) 12:39.36 5000m Helsinki 13Jun98
15) 12:50.38 5000m Birmingham (i) 14Feb99
16) 27:02 10km Doha 11Dec02
17) 8:04.69 * 2 miles Birmingham (i) 21Feb03
18) 41:22 ** 15km Tilburg 04Sep05
19) 44:23 * 10 miles Tilburg 04Sep05
20) 55:48 20 km Tempe 15Jan06
21) 58:55 Halfmar Tempe 15Jan06
22) 1:11:37 *** 25km Alphen aan den Rijn 12Mar06
23) 56:25.98p 20,000m Ostrava 27Jun07
24) 21,285m 1 hour Ostrava 27Jun07
* not an IAAF record event
** not officially timed
*** no post-race EPO test\
p = pending IAAF ratification
with additional thanks to Marty Post