Haile Gebreselassie sets WR of 2:04.26 at real,-Berlin

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Setting his twenty-fourth world record, Haile Gebreselassie ran 2:04.26 at real,-Berlin today, setting a new world record. This was Haile's seventh marathon. Running with five pacemakers, three who stayed with him through thirty kilometers, Gebreselassie ran the last twelve plus kilometers by himself. This story of a marathon won, and records set starts nineteen years ago, in a marathon in Adis Adaba, Ethiopia....

Man, and women for that matter, being only human, want their lives to have meaning, they want the stories of their lives, their wins, their losses, told around the campfire for many years after their demise.

Track & Field has great stories of wins, losses, heroics, heroic competitions, terrible injuries, all overcome by heroic men and women. Our sport, a sport that combines the primal needs to run, jump, throw, basic actions of both warfare and sport, still stir our souls.

The competition rules in track and field. A track fan loves to see the muscles straining, the effort complete, the bodies leaning for the tape, telltale signs of a very, very close finish. In a marathon, the story is much different.

In the late Emil Zatopek's first marathon, he chatted with world record holder Jim Peters, until he collapsed, then with his fellow veteran marathoners, until they fell back. Zatopek did not take the marathon lightly, as he is constantly quoted for the following, " If you want to run, try one hundred meters. If you want an experience, try a marathon."

Haile Gebreselassie has tried seven marathons as of his finish, this morning of the real,-Berlin marathon. On September 30, 2007, Haile Gebreselassie set his twenty-fourth world record, taking the world marathon record to a new level, with his amazing two hours, four minutes, twenty-six seconds..but the story of this race, as it always does, began long, long ago....

Nineteen years ago......

All of fifteen years old, a young Ethiopian, searching for his first races, comes to the big city of Adis Adaba. There was one race that weekend, a marathon. 26.2 miles. Running in boots, a young Haile Gebreselassie runs two hours, forty-eight minutes for his first marathon. " I finished because there were no cars on the course,I had no choice," recalled Haile many years later in an interview with FT sports writer Pat Butcher.

Gebresalassie noted that he took the bus home, very tired, and was dropped several kilometers from his village. The walk home, after his first marathon, his first running race for that matter, must have been horrendously painful, as Haile recalled the experience with a grimace nineteen years later...

Back to the present......

The marathon is a demanding friend. It humbles the fast and the fit. No matter how one feels at five kilometers, rest assured that all marathoners feel some pain by thirty-five kilometers.

Last year, Haile Gebresalassie won real,-Berlin in 2006 in 2:05.56. Haile was on world record pace through 35 kilometers, but he faltered, running all by himself, and he still ran a sub 2:06! Less than ninety days later, Haile won at Fukuoka in 2:06.25, the first man to run two marathons under 2:07 in such a short time.

Last April, Haile Gebreselassie, who had returned to Flora London after his 2:09 there the year before, looked fine until 19 miles, just after 30 kilometers. " I had trouble breathing, " noted Haile, recalling the tough experience to Pat Butcher, "I could not sleep the next night. " He found out that he had a pollen allergy, but it
was a tough blow.

This past summer, silencing all of his critics, the 34 year old ran a fine 10,000 meters on the track, with his fourth place time in 26:52.1 in Hengelo last May. In June, with the fans of Ostrava cheering him on, Gebreselassie broke the sixteen year old world record of one Arturo Barrios, who held the world track records at 20k and the hour run!

Focusing on longer runs, and testing his speed, Haile Gebreselassie took his preparations for Berlin quite meticulously, learning from the six previous marathons. In September, Gebreselassie ran the Nike half marathon in New York City, his first visit there, and ran 59:24 for the half marathon distance. He was ready.

In the press conferences before the real,-Berlin marathon, Haile captured all of the headlines, as he is highly quotable, always smiling, and his English is superb. He told the sports writers that a) he was ready to break the world record, b) he hoped he would have some competition, c) he can run 2:03. The wires and emails rang around the world!

On an accidental phone call with Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of the New York Road Runners, Mary told this writer that Haile was going to break the world record on Sunday. Our world traveling photographer, Victah Sailer, has been telling many that he thought the record was gone as well.

**********

The race....

Haile Gebreselassie was with his five pace makers from the start. The other elite marathoners stayed well back. Haile hit the ten kilometer mark in 29:25 ( Tergat
had hit 29:58 for his 10k mark during his world record run in 2003 of 2:04.55). Staying focused, and patient, Gebreselassie hit 15 kilometers in 44:15 ( compared to Tergat's 44:46 during his 2003 run).

Hitting twenty kilometers in 59:10, ( compared to Tergat's 59:45), Haile was relentless, hitting the halfway in 1:02.29. He dropped two of his pacemakers.

The weather was perfect, nice and cool ( it had rained all the previous day), and Haile continued on his quest, reaching 25 kilometers in 1:14.05, comparing nicely with Tergat's 1:14.43.

Consider the pace, under 4:42 per mile, this pace was difficult not only on Gebreselassie, but on his pacemakers. By thirty kilometers, reached in 1:28.54, as compared to Tergat's 2003 world record race pace of 1:29.25.

Haile Gebreselassie was all alone. Last year, the little Emperor was all by himself from this time on and his body wavered, how would it go this year?

Haile was stronger and more focused than last year. He hit the 35 kilometer make in 1:43.38, still twelve seconds up on Tergat's pace. Gebreselassie stayed on task, hitting forty kilometers in 1:58.08, as opposed to Tergat's 1:58.36.

The final two kilometers must have been run on pure adrenalin, as Haile Gebreselassie, much smarter now and better trained than his first marathon some nineteen years ago, ran towards his twenty-fourth world record, tying the record setting career of the great Finnish runner, Paavo Nurmi.

Haile Gebreselassie's world record of 2:04.26 was the sixth world record set on the Berlin marathon course, known for its swiftness. ( Remember Christa Vahlensieck's 2:34.48 in 1977?
Then, there was Brazil's Ronaldo da Costa, who in 1998, ran 2:06.05. In 1999, Tegla Laroupe of Kenya ran 2:20.43 in 1999, setting a women's world record. In 2001, Naoko Takahashi of Japan ran 2:19.43 to become history's first sub two hour, twenty minute women marathoner. In 2003, Paul Tergat of Kenya, followed one second back by his pacemaker, Sammy Korir, ran 2:04.55.

And now, Haile Gebreselassie had achieved his goal. This goal, of setting a marathon record and of setting 24 world records, and tying Paavo Nurmi's record, had been discussed with this writer in 2006 when he set records 20 and 21 at the RNR Arizona Half marathon for 20k and the half marathon distance. " When, Gebreselassie runs, all expect a world record. It is not so easy," he noted with some frustration a year and a half ago.

But now, it was time to celebrate. As Haile crossed the line, the phone of race director Marke Milde ran. A phone call from Kenya? It was Paul Tergat, congratulating Haile on his world record.
"Sorry, Paul." Geb said," I think I had better conditions than when you ran the record. I will tell Mark to invite you back next year." Geb then passed the phone to Pat Butcher, to whom Tergat said, " That's sport, records are made to be broken. I'm very happy for him, we are very good friends." Tergat will be racing next at Fukuoka in December, the race won by Haile last year.


real,-Berlin Marathon: 1. Haile Gebreselassie, Ethiopia, 2:04.26, world record, 2. Abel Kirui, Kenya, 2:06.51 ( pb by four minutes!), 3. Salim Kipsang, Kenya, 2:07.29 (PB), 4.Philip Manyim, Kenya, (2005 real,-Berlin winner)

The women's race has made the upcoming final two races of the World Major series as Geta Wami, also of Ethiopia, ran 2:23.17. Upon her finish, Geta Wami said, " I want to run New York,."
She will have five weeks to recover.

( for our coverage of the real.-Berlin marathon, this writer is indebted to, as usual, many friends and observers. Of particular interest with this newswire were the releases of Pat Butcher, one of our sports'
finest columnists.}

For more information, click on : http://www.iaaf.org/news/kind=2/newsid=41915.html#haile+20426+world+record+berlin+updated

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