Participants in the mass race at the opening of Haiile Gebrselassie's resort hotel at Lake Hawassa in Ethiopia (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
Among those in attendance were his close friend and greatest rival Paul Tergat, his younger Ethiopian compatriots Tirunesh Dibaba and her husband Sileshi Sihine, AIMS executive Hugh Jones, and New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.
The centerpiece of the weekend festivities was The Every One Races in Hawassa, a full morning of road races starting outside the doors of his luxurious hotel that bears the name Haile Resort on Sunday featuring a half-marathon, two elite 7Km races, kids races and a mass participation 7Km. The races will be an annual event to help publicise an international health campaign of the same name whose aim is to reduce infant and maternal mortality in Ethiopia.
In the elite Half Marathon races, Wilson Chebet won the men’s race in a time of 1:03:13, while Seada Kedir won the women’s race clocking 1:17:50.
All 112 rooms at the hotel were fully booked as more than 500 participants and guests made the journey south from Addis Ababa to mark the opening of a project that has been more than four years in the making. Gebrselassie was given some of the land by the southern regional government following his second Olympic title ten years ago, but only started work on the building in 2006.
The hotel features a panoramic entrance overlooking Lake Hawassa, a pool, spas for both men and women, the one for women bearing the name of one of Gebrselassie’s daughters Eden and a full fitness room. Finishing touches are still being made and plans include to add tennis courts and an outdoor track.
Gebrselassie was the proud host throughout the weekend, shaking hands, and posing for pictures always his with famous smile and looking after all of the last minute details.
“Words can’t express my awe of Haile,” said Wittenberg. “The man is relentless, cheerful and patient with fans and friends while at the same driven to succeed and impatient with any effort less than the best.”
Haile had a simple measuring stick for success on the weekend.
“If people are happy that’s the most important thing I need to hear,” Gebrselassie said.
On this weekend he didn’t need to worry.
Jiro Mochizuki and Richard Finn for the IAAF
- Participants in the mass race at the opening of Haiile Gebrselassie's resort hotel at Lake Hawassa in Ethiopia (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
- Wilson Chebet winning the inaugural Every One half marathon near Ethiopia's Lake Hawassa (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
- Seada Kedir winning the inaugural Every One half marathon near Ethiopia's Lake Hawassa (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright