Gebrselassie is ready for Dubai Marathon, by Pat Butcher, note by Larry Eder



Haile Gebrselassie at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon press conference, January 20, 2010, photo by

On Friday, January 22, 2010, Haile Gebrselassie, the world record holder in the men's marathon, a man who holds twenty-four-to twenty-six world records (or has held them), will line up at the start of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. Haile has told the media that his training has been " perfect". Now, comes the tough part-running 26. 2 miles at just a smidge under four minutes and 43 seconds per mile to set a new record.

In an interview with this writer in 2007, Haile noted loud and clear, that he knew he was merely mortal. "Everyone wants me to set world records every race. Even Gebrselassie cannot set records each race!" It was not said in frustration, it was just a statement of fact from a man who has challenged his body and spirit like few other mortals. For a world record, for a sub 2:03:59, it will have to perfect. We wish Haile a perfect day, well, for at least two hours, three minutes and thirty-eight odd seconds!

Our roving marathon troubadour, Pat Butcher, the global runner, sent us this piece on the Dubai press conference:

dubai, wednesday, january 20, 10.30gmt

Haile Gebrselassie pronounced his preparation “perfect” for Friday’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, but reminded everyone at today’s press conference that all the other elements had to be perfect too, even for an attempt on his world record of 2.03.59, set in Berlin 18 months ago.

“I’ve made sure I’m in perfect shape,” said the 36 year old Ethiopian, who will be running in Dubai for the third year in succession. “But everything has to be perfect, the weather, the pacemakers. If everything is perfect, I can run 2.03.30. I don’t promise, if I promise and fail, we’ll all be disappointed. Two years ago, it was a little bit warm at the end (he ran 2.04.53, then second fastest in history), last year, it was raining (he ‘only’ ran 2.05.29, eighth fastest)”.

He dismissed the notion that his first half in 61min 45sec, 2.03.30 pace, in 2008 might have been too fast. “I didn’t run too fast, I want to do the same on Friday. It’s good the race starts at 6.30(am), but above all, I want to keep to the schedule all the way through. Even if you run the first kilometre to slow, you’re catching up all the way”.

His two victories here have netted him half a million dollars, since the race was upgraded in 2008 with a million dollars prize money, making the first prize of $250,000, for both men and women the biggest in the marathon world.

But there is also the little matter of a million dollar bonus for a world record, offered by Dubai Holding. Race Director Peter Connerton said that the economic recession had not affected the marathon at all, “if anything, we’ve had extra interest from sponsors, who can see the value of sport in times like these”.

As if to back him up, you never saw a man happier at the prospect of shelling out a million bucks than the representative of Dubai Holding. But Gebrselassie, who bows to no one in the art of taking a press conference captive was more than equal to that.

Replying to someone who asked what he might do if he won the million dollars, he first said, “I will tell you after I get the million dollars,” then adding as the laughter died down, “If I could get the record by paying a million dollars, I’d do it”.

Three of the pacemakers who delivered him on schedule to 35k last year, before the rains ruined the record attempt - Fabiano Joseph of Tanzania, and John Kales and Sammy Kosgei of Kenya – are in there again.

And another Kenyan Sammy Korir, who was once second fastest in the world, says that he is not in the field as token opposition. Korir ran 2.04.56, one second behind colleague Paul Tergat’s then world record, in Berlin 2003, but has a dozen sub-2.10 times, more than Gebrselassie.

Korir, 38, finished third here two years ago, and said today, “After my run in Berlin (2003 behind Tergat) I had injuries and it was difficult, coming back to racing and then getting injured again. But now I have shown I can run fast, 2:07 again (winning in Seoul 2008), so I am looking forward to the race. Dubai is a very good course for running fast”.

Before the 42.2k on Friday, Gebreselassie went off to tackle the half-mile high Burj Khalifa, as one of the first famous guests up the recently opened world’s tallest tower.

And having reiterated today his desire to run the Olympic marathon in London 2012, the inference is that Haile is not planning to slow down any time soon. So, weather and pacemakers permitting, expect another towering time from the Little Emperor on Friday.

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