Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Re-pounding the Past: Flashback to great road races – Part One (written for UK Athletics 03/08).

Each month, Run Britain will delve into either the domestic or international road running archives and review a classic road race. This month, NICOLA BAMFORD winds back the clock only a tad to September 30th, 2007...

Berlin was the setting; the marathon was the task and Haile Gebrselassie was the conqueror. The 34 year-old diminutive Ethiopian slashed a remarkable 29-seconds off his great nemesis, Paul Tergat of Kenya’s 2:04.55 World Record from 2003, to register a blistering 2:04.26.

“It was something very special today, because this is the marathon world record!” said Gebrselassie afterwards. “That is something different in comparison to the 5,000 or 10,000m, because the Marathon is the king of the distance races.” The marathon record represented World Record or World Best no.24 for the two-time Olympic 10,000m champion.

The ever-smiling runner took 90-seconds off his 2006 Berlin time; a factor perhaps assisted by the phenomenal spectator support (around 1-million); “The spectators gave me more support than last year. I have to say thank you Germany! Today the weather was perfect, it was not as windy as last year,” revealed the father of four.

‘Smiling Assassin’ on WR pace from the gun
Led by pacemakers, Gebrselassie was on course for the World record throughout. Passing halfway in 62:29, his rivals couldn’t match that kind of pace for long; leaving Gebrselassie in a race of his own through the streets of Germany’s capital.

Up to the 30 kilometre point, two of the original five pacemakers were able to stay with him, but then both Eshetu Wondimu (Ethiopia) and Rodgers Rop (Kenya); the latter being the winner of the 2007 Hamburg marathon in 2:07:32 and a former champion in New York and Boston, dropped out.

In the 2006 event, Gebrselassie also had to run the last 12 kilometres on his own – and finished 61 seconds outside the World record (2:05:56); fading in the final 6km, into the face of a stiff headwind. It didn’t happen this time around, however, as ‘The Emperor’ -as he is affectionately known in athletics circles - ran more consistently; never dropping outside three minutes per kilometre.

Even without pacemakers, Gebrselassie ran the final 12 kilometres considerably faster than his previous Berlin attempt; with kilometre 35 representing his fastest of the entire race in 2:50.
With the ideal conditions (mild and overcast skies), combined with the fast, flat course (with a total inclination of just 30m), Gebrselassie had finally conquered his favourite event – and is impeccable style, too.

Earning himself a tidy 130,000 Euro payout for his efforts, the Addis Ababa resident even apologized for his record-breaking to his great friend and foe, Tergat, who called with his congratulations immediately afterwards!

Kenyan, Abel Kirui was second in 2:06.51, with his countryman, Salim Kipsang third in 2:07.29.

Run Britain editor, NICOLA BAMFORD was fortunate to gain a unique insight into Haile’s training and lifestyle. Here, the ‘Emperor’ and undisputed king of road running answers some quick-fire questions...

1. Tell us about how your training is going at the moment? and describe a typical weeks' marathon training for you?
Training is going very well. I do 250 k in the week, 2 sessions a day, mostly long distance runs, 2 gym sessions a week and no track training.

2. Was it a difficult decision to withdraw from this year's Olympic marathon? and how do you rate your chances in the 10km?
It was very difficult of course; one of my big dreams is to become Olympic champion in the marathon like Abebe Bikila. The 10.000 is very tough if I qualify, I have to run against Kenenisa Bekele and Sileshi Sihine and also some very good Kenyan athletes. We will see, impossible is nothing.

3. Tell us about your work life in Ethiopia? You're very busy - is it hard to fit training into your day?
No, not difficult, training is my priority. I enjoy going to the office and deal with my different businesses.

4. You never stay out of Ethiopia for long - is this because of your children/wife and work?
Family and work is very important for me and of course, I want to train as much as possible at altitude

5. What races will you do in the run-up to Beijing?
I will do Hengelo 10.000 (May 24), I hope to qualify there. If I qualify, I might do one or two 5.000 on track. Qualification will not be easy, with so many good athletes from Ethiopia who want to run the 10.000m.

6. Describe your typical day...
I go training at 6 in the morning, I go to the office at 9, I have lunch from 12 to 1, I return from work at 4, I train from 4 to 7, have dinner and relax with my wife and children and go to bed around 10.

7. Tell us about your diet/use of massage...
I eat a lot of traditional Ethiopian food. For my protein I eat meat from sheep, I eat a lot of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables and I eat injera, the traditional Ethiopian food made of teff, that is a very old grain that grows only in Ethiopia, it has a lot of minerals, iron and very good carbohydrates.

8. What has been your favourite road race over the World? and in the UK?
My favourite road race would be Berlin marathon I think, because I broke the World Record there. I like London, but I was not very lucky there because of my pollen allergy.

9. Do you plan to run on the UK in 2008?
It depends on what happens in Hengelo. After Hengelo I will decide on my program

10. Do you see yourself retiring anytime soon, or hope to continue till or after 2012?
I will continue till 2012 to run the Olympic Marathon in London!

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