Saturday, October 30, 2010

Despite Money, Medals and Records, Gebrselassie Remains Motivated


Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia has no chance of lowering his world record on the tough, undulating course at the New York City Marathon, but that does not mean he is finished, even at age 37, with attempting to limbo under his current mark of 2 hours 3 minutes 59 seconds.

“We have to be realistic; we know there are not that many opportunities left,” said Jos Hermens, his agent from the Netherlands. “But in his mind, he is so competitive, he feels he can run half a minute or a minute faster in ideal conditions and in good health.”

Those attempts would probably come on flat courses in Dubai or Berlin, where he set his current record in 2008. Being the only person to have run 26.2 miles under 2:04 is a stunning, career-capping accomplishment. Gebrselassie has nothing else to prove, what with 26 world records and two Olympic gold medals at 10,000 meters. So what would most urgently motivate him to make another record attempt? Seeing someone else, say, the Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya, break the current record.

“I think if somebody breaks the record real soon, then he will be very motivated before the end to have one more go,” Hermens said. “Even if it came after the Olympics” in London in 2012.

Though he will turn 40 in three years, Gebrselassie has no thoughts of retiring, Hermens said, driven by competition and earnings that can help his various business ventures, including a hotel, a gym and a bank in Ethiopia.

“He still would like to run another 10 years and win Olympic medals and break records,” Hermens said. “I think the guy will still be running at a high level over 40. He loves running. He can earn a living and invest it in all the things he’s doing. He never takes a break. He always trains, even if it’s in a gym, or in the water right after a marathon. He’s doing something every day.”

Another take on whether Gebrselassie has ducked competition in the marathon by attempting to set records in time-trial type races comes from Mary Wittenberg, director of the New York City Marathon.

“I think this has probably been blown out of proportion,” Wittenberg said. “He has a track runner’s mentality. Time, and records, are really important to Haile. I think he has wanted to have more records than anyone else has ever had. So he totally picked that off. Records have been a priority to him and helped set the course of his career. That’s a different question than, is he ducking competition?”