Double Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj completed a 10km road race on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, South of France yesterday.
El Guerrouj who retired from athletics after winning the 1500m and 5000m gold medals at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 made a come back to the sport but as he was quoted “it was just for pleasure”.
Before the race, the 33-year-old Moroccan said that for once he wanted to be part of a mass race with no ambition to perform.
“I am here to participate in this race to celebrate the pleasure of running. I am here to share the same passion that unites me with the 4500 runners who will take part.”
“When I was a professional athlete, I was running for the performance, for the medals. Here, it’ll be different. I will be able to enjoy it, look at the public, and be with the crowd of runners. I miss these feelings because I’ve never experienced them.”
Although he did not expect to be among the leaders, El Guerrouj briefly stayed with the leading group before dropping back and finishing eight minutes off winner Mokhtar Benhari.
“I ran like a beginner,” smiled El Guerrouj after the race. “They went out too fast and it took a while before I could find my rhythm. People were overtaking me and I could see they were pleased, surprised. I could hear some of them say ‘well, I can say I have beaten Hicham at least once!’”
“I am no longer a professional, I am just an amateur who enjoys running a couple of times a week but hasn’t run much these last few weeks. Today I really enjoyed being part of the crowd.”
El Guerrouj is expected to return in April to run either a 15 or a 20km road race before his marathon debut either in New York or Berlin.
For the record, El Guerrouj clocked 36:00 to finish in 136th position.
IAAF with many thanks to Jean Denis Coquard of L'Equipe for the quotes