The world marathon record can sink as low as one hour and 58 minutes, the fastest human being over 42-kilometres, Haile Gebrselassie, has predicted.
But the Ethiopian legend, who has been in Nairobi since Monday on a training mission with his sponsors, G4S, said this record time will only be registered after 20 to 25 years.
Gebrselassie and his long-time nemesis, Paul Tergat, were the star attractions at a sumptuous dinner hosted by G4S at the Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi on Friday night.
Roses of smoked salmon and shrimps set on a bed of fresh bouquet garden leaves enriched with balsamic and rice vinaigrette dressing was the appetiser at Friday’s dinner, with the main dish a choice between a mixed grill of chicken and medallion of beef fillet accompanied with bordelaise sauce and pan seared fillet of tilapia surrounded with tomato basil sauce.
And as the guests were served with a desert of baked cheese cake with black pie cherry filling and fresh fruit salad, Gebrselassie and Tergat took to the stage to re-live their glorious competition days that climaxed in that memorable 10,000 metres Olympic final in Sydney where the Ethiopian pipped Tergat to the gold medal.
Gebrselassie, who holds 26 world records, including the world’s best marathon time of two hours, three minutes and 59 seconds, said it is possible for man to dip under two hours over the 42 kilometres.
“In the next 20 to 25 years it will be possible to run 1:58 or 1:59 in the marathon but to run lower than that will mean the runners using special shoes or skates,” the 35-year-old Gebrselassie, who left for his Addis Ababa base on Friday, said.
Gebrselassie also described his win over Tergat at the 2000 Olympics as “a victory from God.”
“That was not me. That was God,” he said.
“I don’t know how I did it... I remember looking at the big screen and when I saw my pictures there, then I knew I had won the race.”
Tergat, sharing the stage with his rival but great friend, said the Ethiopians had planned seriously for the race and had schemed how to stop him from winning.
“When Asefa (Mezgebu) boxed me with 300 metres to go, I said shit! I knew just what they had planned because Asefa came in front of me but did not want to move,” said Tergat who held the world marathon record at 2:04.55 before Gebrselassie lowered it to 2:04.26 in Berlin two years ago and further to 2:03.59 last year at the same Berlin course.
“I lost the gold medal by less than a second. I had done everything and put in all the effort I needed to win and that will remain my most memorable race as an athlete. I lost to a great man.
Tergat, a five-time world cross country champion, who finished 17th at the Armed Forces Cross Country Championships a fortnight ago, said he is not keen on making a comeback to his previous speciality and sounded a warning to Kenyan cross country runners: “If I’m still able to breathe down your neck, then it means you have some homework to do.”
Gebrselassie was in Kenya on a mentorship programme for the G4S Teen programme that featured upsoming athletes from Africa.
The G4S athletes included Kenyan cross country star Pauline Korikwiang, sprinters Obinna Metu (Nigeria), Fanuel Kenosi (Botswana) and table tennis star Zodwa Maphanga (South Africa).
Tergat and Gebrselassie agreed that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has a lot more to do to root out doping from the sport.
“Things are not as bad in athletics as they are in other sports but there is a lot that the IAAF needs to do to remove drugs from our sport,” Gebrselassie said.
They urged the upcoming stars to be close to the media and be involved in community service.