Haile Gebrselassie needs no invitation to keep on running. There’s no stopping him, as his latest world record, 2.03.59 in the real_Berlin Marathon on Sunday demonstrates. It was his 26th world record or world best, and today (Monday), he reiterated that he feels himself capable of at least 2.03.30 for the distance.
“After the race, I didn’t feel so tired,” he said. “But today, I couldn’t wake up. I didn’t train this morning. But it feels great to be the first man under 2.04 in the marathon.
That led to the perennial question of when the first sub-two hour marathon will happen. “I don’t expect it before 20 years,” replied the man who has taken rival Paul Tergat’s record of 2.04.55, in Berlin 2003, down by almost a minute. “Myself, I can do 2.03 something. If I don’t get injured, maybe 2.02.59, but considering my shape and my age, 2.03.30, or 2.03.20”.
He also said that running in the Olympic 10,000 metres in Beijing, where he finished sixth was the right decision. He had qualified for the Ethiopian team with a 26.51.20 run in Hengelo in May.
“It helped a lot here. When you can run 26.51, running 10 kilometres in a marathon in 29 minutes (average) is nothing. It’s easy”. Only if your name is Haile Gebrselassie.
In the 14 years since he set his first world record (12min 56.96sec for 5000 metres in Hengelo, Netherlands in 1994), Gebrselassie has altered our perceptions about the possibilities and limits of human endurance in long distance running. That span of 14 years is itself a record for longevity in record breaking. And owes much to Geb’s capacity, like all ‘greats’ to reinvent himself. As recently as 1999, he won the world indoor 1500 metres title.
Now he is rearranging the marathon records. The 42.195 kilometre event has long been a haven for the ageing or slowing track runner. But, despite suggesting he is in that category at 35 years of age, Geb has also taken that perception and wrung its neck.
His next race is a 15 kilometres in Melbourne, Australia on November 30. In contrast, Irina Mikitenko, winner of the Berlin’s women’s race with a massive personal best, 2.19.19, has decided not to challenge for the half-million dollar prize that would go with a victory in the New York Marathon in early November.
Gete Wami of Ethiopia, who won in Berlin last year, went on to finish second in New York five weeks later, and won the $500,000 for being points winner in the World Marathon Majors, the series which includes Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
Mikitenko and Wami are currently tied on 65 points in this year’s series. But the Kazakh-born German, 36, has decided against following Wami’s example from last year. “Money isn’t everything,” Mikitenko said on Monday. “I’ve already done very well, winning London and Berlin. If you’re in a sport at this level, you need goals and targets, and my goal is next year’s World Championships marathon here in Berlin. The most important thing is to win. If you win, money follows”.