Ethiopia’s distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie arrived in Nairobi on Monday and confidently said he would lower his world marathon record. Again!
But the 37-year-old multiple Olympic and world champion said it would take not less than another 20 years for a human being to beat the two-hour mark over the 42-kilometre distance.
Gebrselassie lowered his own world record by 27 seconds to two hours, three minutes and 59 seconds at the 2008 Berlin Marathon and made an unsuccessful attempt to improve on it in the German capital last year.
His 2008 record-breaking run came shortly after he pulled out of the Beijing Olympics’ marathon due to the high pollution levels in the Chinese capital, opting, instead, to run in the 10,000 metres at the Games and finishing sixth in a race won by compatriot and the current world record holder in the 25-lap race, Kenenisa Bekele.
Gebrselassie on Monday said, with the benefit of hindsight, his decision to train for the Beijing 10,000m race turned out to be a huge blessing as he shattered his own world marathon record just over a month later in Berlin.
“When I broke the world record in Berlin, I had trained for the 10,000m on the track too and I did a lot of speedwork,” Gebrselassie said. “I did not win a gold medal in Beijing but the speedwork I put in during training helped me break the marathon world record - and I know I will break it again, soon - 2:02 is very possible.”
However, the former Addis Ababa Police officer, now one of Ethiopia’s wealthiest men, said he is not sure when he would run his next marathon and neither would he succumb to questions over his retirement plans. “My next major race is the Great Manchester Run but I’m not sure about the marathon.... may be Berlin or may be Chicago. I’m not sure yet,” he said at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Asked about his retirement plans, the distance running legend responded: “I don’t plan to stop running. I always tell athletes to run for as long as possible and never to think about stopping. Let it come automatically.
“The London (2012) Olympics is in my plans but it will not be easy. There are young and fast runners like we saw in Boston and London. Running 2:05 at the Boston Marathon (Kenya’s Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won in a course record 2:05.51 last week) was crazy!”
Gebrselassie, a special ambassador of the G4S security company, was in Nairobi for a one-day mentorship programme for young athletes and to launch a development partnership between the company and the Mathare Youth Sports Association.
He mentors young athletes under the G4S 4teen programme that brings together 14 promising young sportsmen and women selected worldwide and who attend annual global and regional training camps.