Wanjiru wants to grab crown from ‘King Haile’

Saturday January 23 2010

By SUNDAY NATION Correspondent

Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie has run over the cliff and it’s just a matter of time before his 2:03.59 marathon world record is broken.

That was the verdict of Olympic marathon champion, Samuel Wanjiru, after the Ethiopian failed in his third attempt to improve on his record over the 42km distance in Friday’s Dubai Marathon race.

Gebrselassie, who set the world record in Berlin in 2008, was expected to improve it, saying he wanted to run 2:03:30 but could only make it in 2:06:09.

“Haile has really made the difference in marathon running. But he has reached the peak comparing his age and I do not think he is possible to run any faster,” said Wanjiru.

The 23-year-old Wanjiru is optimistic the record can go down by another 30 seconds and believes he can do it at the Berlin City Marathon in September.

“I want the record. It is not beyond human being reach. It can be reduced by another 30 seconds though for it to happen, all the things required must be perfect. The pace setters, weather and form must be optimum,” said Wanjiru.

He has since called upon fellow countrymen Robert ‘Mwafrika’ Cheruiyot, Martin Lel and Abel Kirui - the three marathoners he occasionally trains with - to forgo their individual interests and work together to see that the record returns to Kenya.

Legendary Paul Tergat became the first man to run under two hours and six minutes when he was set a new record in Berlin marathon in 2003 clocking 2:04.54.

“The Berlin course is ideal to break the record. I do not want to put my hope high with London, which is hilly and has sharp corners,” he said.

Wanjiru, who wanted to run in Berlin last year against Gebrselassie but was denied the chance, said he was now focussed on his race in German Capital come September.

“It was not possible for me to run in Berlin last year because Haile had secured a contract that organisers could not bridge. But thank God it’s over and I met them in Chicago and we agreed I will run there,” he added.

Wanjiru, who draws up to Sh19 million ($250,000) appearance fee in most of the races he competes in, could not get the confirmation from Berlin organisers last year that his money would be paid and that is why he opted to run in Chicago.

“They told me it was not possible for me to get the appearance fee. So my manager advised me to run elsewhere and that is why we went to Chicago,” said Wanjiru.

Ever since he started running the 42km marathon race, Wanjiru has only lost once to Lel in London in 2008. He won at the Beijing setting a new Olympic record time of 2:06:32; becoming the first Kenyan to win the Olympic gold in the marathon.

Last year, Wanjiru won both the London Marathon in 2:05:10, a new personal record and also a new course record and Chicago Marathon 2:05:41, the fastest ever marathons recorded in the United Kingdom and United States.

“I only run two marathons in a year. I will be in London and then Berlin. That is enough for me,” said Wanjiru.

But he launches his season with a race in Portugal at the Lisbon half marathon in March before heading to London in April.