The Story Of Haile “The Best Ever” Gebrselassie

13 01 2009

I admire people who inspite of many nagging difficulties, were still able to overcame such odds and became great people of today!Their stories will always inspire us and will motivate us to continue in life and continue RUNNING  as well!  We may never be as good as them but at least we learn from them and we are blessed to see them perform in our era. They maybe Godsent  so that we can say that in life…”Nothing is impossible.”

Source: Wikipedia

As a child growing up on a farm in Ethiopia, Haile Gebrselassie ran ten kilometres to school each day and another ten kilometres back home. As an adult, he ran with his left arm crooked, the effect of years spent running with books under his arm. By the time of the 1996 Olympics, Gebrselassie was the reigning world record holder at 10,000m and the twice defending world champion. It was expected that he would receive a serious challenge from cross-country champion Paul Tergat of Kenya and that is exactly what happened. Tergat and Gebrselassie pulled away from the rest of the field after 8000m. Gebreselassie tracked Tergat until the final lap and then surged ahead to win by six metres. Gebrselassie and Tergat renewed their rivalry at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Again they left the rest of the runners behind and again Tergat led as they entered the final lap. This time the finish was even closer, as Gebrselassie did not edge ahead of Tergat until the very last stride, in what would prove to be one of the most exciting finishes in Olympic history. At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, Haile Gebrselassie finished 5th in the 10, 000m.

Early career

Gebrselassie was born as one of ten children in Asella, Arsi Province, Ethiopia. As a child growing up on a farm he used to run ten kilometres to school every morning, and the same back every evening. This led to a distinctive running posture, with his left arm crooked as if still holding his schoolbooks.[6]

Gebrselassie gained international recognition in 1992 when he won the 5,000-metre and 10,000-metre races at the 1992 Junior World Championships in Seoul,[7] and a silver medal in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships.

The next year, in 1993, Gebrselassie won the first of what would eventually be four consecutive world championships titles in the men’s 10,000 metres at the 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999 World Championships. At the 1993 World Championships, he also ran in the 5,000-metre race to finish a close second behind Ismael Kirui of Kenya. In 1994 he won a bronze medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Later that year he set his first world record by running a 12:56.96 in the 5,000-metres, breaking Saïd Aouita‘s record by two seconds.

In 1995, Gebrselassie ran the 10,000-metres in 26:43.53 in Hengelo, Netherlands lowering the world record by a full nine seconds. That same summer, in Zürich, Switzerland, Gebrselassie ran the 5000 metres in 12:44.39, ripping an astonishing 10.91 seconds off the world record 12:55.30 (established by Kenya’s Moses Kiptanui earlier in the year). This world record at the Weltklasse meet in Zürich was voted “Performance of the Year” for 1995 by Track & Field News magazine. At the same Weltklasse meet in Zürich in 1996, an exhausted Gebrselassie, suffering from blisters obtained on the hard track in Atlanta (where he had won the Olympic 10,000 metres gold), had no answer to the 58-second lap of Daniel Komen with five laps to go as Komen went on to win and just miss Gebrselassie’s record, finishing in 12:45.09. In 1997, Gebrselassie turned the tables on Komen at the same meet. Coming off his third 10K world championship gold medal, Gebrselassie beat Komen in another Zürich classic on August 13, 1997, covering the final 200 metres in 26.8 seconds to break his 5,000 metres world record with a time of 12:41.86. Komen, in turn, took Gebrselassie’s record only nine days later when Komen ran a 12:39.74 performance in Belgium.

Middle career

The next year, 1998, saw Gebrselassie lowering the indoor world records for 2,000 and 3,000 metres, enjoying success outdoors by taking back both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records, as well as earning a share in the Golden League jackpot for winning all of his races in the Golden League series that summer. In June 1998, in Hengelo, Netherlands, Gebrselassie set a 10,000 metres world record 26:22.75, breaking Paul Tergat‘s world record 26:27.85, running evenly paced 13:11/13:11 5K splits.

Just 13 days later, Gebrselassie took on the 5,000 metres mark of Komen in Helsinki, Finland. Croatian pacemaker Branko Zorko took the pace out slowly, hitting 1000 metres in 2:33.91 and dropping out at the mile. Millon Wolde and Assefa Mezgebu led Gebrselassie through 2,000 metres in 5:05.62. His pacemakers could not maintain the pace, though, and Gebrselassie was left alone for a difficult solo effort six laps out. Hitting 3,000 metres in 7:38.93, even the British commentators announcing the race counted him out. With four laps to go (8:40.00), Gebrselassie needed a sub-4 minute final 1,600 metres for the record. With one lap to go and in great pain, Gebrselassie took off, recording a final lap of 56.77 seconds and a final 1,600 metres of 3:59.36 (= 4:00.96 mile) to race to a 12:39.36 world record.

In 1999, Gebrselassie starred as himself in the movie Endurance. The film chronicled his quest to win Olympic gold in the 10,000 metres in Atlanta. On the track, he won a 1500/3000 metres double at the World Indoor Track Championships, defended his Outdoor World Track Championships 10,000 metres title, and remained undefeated in all his races (which ranged from the 1,500 up to 10,000 metres).

In 2000, Gebrselassie again won all of his races, ranking first in the world yet again in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he became the third man in history to successfully defend an Olympic 10,000 metres title (after Emil Zátopek and Lasse Virén). The narrow Olympic victory over Kenya’s Paul Tergat came down to a blistering final kick, with Tergat’s 26.3 second final 200 metres being topped by Gebrselassie’s even faster 25.4. The winning margin of victory was only 0.09 seconds, closer than the winning margin in the men’s 100 metre dash final.

In 2001, Gebrselassie won the IAAF World half marathon and the bronze medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2001 World Championships in Athletics.

On August 30, 2003, Gebrselassie topped the polls when elected as a member of the IAAF Athletes Commission. Also in 2003, at the World Championships in Paris, Gebrselassie was involved in one of the most remarkable 10,000 metres races of all time while gaining a silver medal behind countryman and protégé Kenenisa Bekele. The last half of the 10,000 metres final at the championships was completed in a staggering 12:57.24 (12:57.2 for Bekele and 12:58.8 for Gebrselassie). According to the IAAF, “Not only was this split the fastest closing 5,000 metres in the championships 10,000m (the previous record was 13:12.12, recorded in Atlanta), but it was also the fastest 5,000 metres in a global championships surpassing the 12:58.13 Salah Hissou recorded when he won the 5,000m in Sevilla’99.” (This remark remained true until a week later when the World Athletic Championships 5,000 metres medalists (including Bekele) all ran faster than the second 5,000 metres split in the previous week’s 10,000 metres.) “The difference between the closing 5,000 metres splits (12:57.24) and the 5,000 metres World record (12:39.36) was 17.98 seconds, which is a record. The previous best of 18.4 seconds (13:31.4 for the closing 5,000 metres when the World Record was 13:13.0) was recorded in the 1976 Olympics.”[8]

In 2004 Athens Olympics, Gebrselassie sought to become the first man in history to win three straight Olympic gold medals in the 10,000 metres. He was unable to do so, however, finishing fifth in a race won by his compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, who had broken both of Gebrselassie’s major track world records, the 5,000 metres and the 10,000 metres records. Shortly before the Athens games, Gebrselassie was unable to train for 3 weeks due to inflammation of his Achilles tendon. The injury was severe enough that he would not have competed otherwise, but did so because of significant pressure from his country. This loss of the final period of training likely cost him a medal.[9][10]

Later career

Haile Gebrselassie in New York in 2003.

Since leaving the track after the 2004 Olympics, Gebrselassie has focused on road racing and the marathon. His adult marathons to date include London 2002, Amsterdam 2005 (1st place), London 2006, Berlin 2006 (1st place), Fukuoka 2006 (1st place), London 2007, Berlin 2007 (1st place and World Record), Dubai 2008 (1st place) and Berlin 2008 (1st place and another World Record).

In 2002, Gebrselassie made his debut at the marathon at the London Marathon. He started the race with a very fast pace, within world record time. He was unable to hold it, however, as world record holder Khalid Khannouchi and Paul Tergat both eventually passed him. Khannouchi broke his own world record, while Gebrselassie finished third.[11]

In 2005 Gebrselassie went undefeated in all of his road races. This included a British All-Comers record in the 10K at Manchester (27:25), a win in the Amsterdam Marathon in the fastest marathon time in the world for 2006 (2:06:20), and a new world best for 10 miles in Tilburg, The Netherlands (44:24). (His unofficial split of 41:22 at the 15K mark was 7 seconds faster than the official world best.)

Gebrselassie started 2006 positively by beating the world half marathon record by a full 21 seconds, recording a time of 58 minutes and 55 seconds on January 15th. He broke the record, his first one on American soil, by running the second half of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. During the race he also broke Paul Tergat’s 20 km record, both records having stood since 1998. (Gebrselassie passed the 20 km mark in 55:48.) That year also marked another victory for Gebrselassie as he shattered the 25 km world road record (albeit in non-IAAF ratified fashion) by 68 seconds in a time of 1:11:37. The race was organized where Gebrselassie and six other runners would run 5 kilometres and then cross the starting line of the 20-K Alphen race in Alphen aan den Rijn of the Netherlands.

On April 23, 2006, he finished 9th in the London Marathon with a time of 2:09:05 (the race was won by Kenyan Felix Limo, who clocked 2:06:39). Gebrselassie referred to the 9th-place finish as “the worst race of my career”.[12] However, on September 24 he came back with a win in the Berlin Marathon in the fastest time of the year, 2:05:56. His time in Berlin made him only the fifth man in history to run under 2:06 for the marathon. This was followed by a win in the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan in 2:06:52.

In London on April 22, 2007 Gebrselassie challenged the 2006 London Marathon winner Felix Limo, 2005 London Marathon winner Martin Lel, 2004 Athens gold medalist Stefano Baldini, 2006 New York Marathon winner Marílson Gomes dos Santos, and the current marathon world record holder Paul Tergat in what organizers anticipated would be an exciting race.[13] However Gebrselassie dropped out at the 18 mile stage complaining of a stitch and inability to breathe, which turned out to be an allergic reaction to the pollen in the air. This left the 2005 winner Martin Lel to come home in first place.

One month later, Gebrselassie made a surprise return to the track for the first of two stadium races that summer. In the first, he ran a 26:52.81 in finishing 5th in a very competitive 10,000 metres race in Hengelo, The Netherlands. Then, on June 27, 2007, Gebrselassie launched an attack upon the world record for the one hour run, in Ostrava, Czech Republic. This record attempt was successful as Gebrselassie passed the hour mark at 21,285 m (13 miles 397 yards), eclipsing the previous best of 21,101 m, set by Mexican Arturo Barrios in La Flèche, France, on March 30, 1991. Furthermore, Gebrselassie covered 50 laps (20,000 m) in 56:25.98, another world best, well within the previous 56:55.6 also set by Barrios in 1991. These were his 23rd and 24th world records.

Gebrselassie made his running debut in New York City when he won the New York City Half Marathon on August 5, 2007 in 59:24, breaking the previous course record by two minutes. His win in the Lisbon Half Marathon (59:15) in March 2008 gave him a perfect record of 9–0 in winning all of his half marathons.

On September 30, 2007 Gebrselassie won the Berlin Marathon in 2:04:26[14] (4:44.8 per mile), setting the world record and shaving 29 seconds off Paul Tergat‘s record, set on the same course in 2003. His victory further energized the celebrations of the Ethiopian Millennium (unique to the Ethiopian calendar), which began on September 12, 2007.

Prior to the 2008 Dubai Marathon, his manager suggested that Gebrselassie would be able to run a sub 2:04 time for a new world record. While Gebrselassie agreed that a sub 2:04 was possible, he stated that the conditions would need to be perfect for such a time.[15] The event was held on January 18, 2008 and was won by Gebrselassie in a time of 2:04:53, making it the second fastest marathon in history. However the early pace had been too fast and he was unable to continue at that speed, resulting in a time 27 seconds short of his own world record.[16]

At the Hengelo FBK-Games on May 24, Gebrselassie ran 26:51.20 for the 10,000 meters to finish a close 2nd behind countryman Sileshi Sihine‘s 26:50.53. Along with his 10,000 meter performances in 2003, 2004, and 2007, Gebrselassie is the only man older than 30 years of age to break 27 minutes in the 10,000 metres; his nine career sub 27 minute 10,000 meter performances is more than any other athlete has run.

Because of Beijing‘s air pollution levels, Gebrselassie decided to withdraw from the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He suffers from asthma and said that running in such conditions may be harmful for his health.[17] Gebrselassie later admitted that he regretted the decision as the Beijing air was cleaner than expected.[18] He did, however, run the 10,000 meters, finishing sixth with a time of 27:06.68. The gold medal went to his countryman and current world record holder, Kenenisa Bekele. [19] The following month, on 28 September 2008, he defended his Berlin Marathon title, averaging 2:56.5 per kilometer (4:43.7 per mile) for a time of 2:03:59, breaking his own world record by 27 seconds. This was also the first sub 2:04 time for event.

He has stated that he would like to enter politics after retiring.[20]


World Record and ‘World Best’ performances

Distance Mark Date Location Notes
5000 metres 12:56.96 199406-04 Hengelo, Netherlands
Two miles 8:07.46 199505-27 Kerkrade, Netherlands world best
10,000 metres 26:43.53 199506-05 Hengelo, Netherlands
5,000 metres 12:44.39 199508-16 Zurich, Switzerland
5,000 metres 13:10.98 199601-27 Sindelfingen, Germany, indoors
3,000 metres 7:30.72 199602-04 Stuttgart, Germany, indoors
5,000 metres 12:59.04 199702-20 Stockholm, Sweden indoors
Two miles 8:01.08 199705-31 Hengelo, Netherlands
10,000 metres 26:31.32 199707-04 Oslo, Norway
5,000 metres 12:41.86 199708-13 Zurich, Switzerland
3,000 metres 7:26.15 199801-25 Karlsruhe, Germany indoors
2,000 metres 4:52.86 199802-15 Birmingham, UK indoors
10,000 metres 26:22.75 199806-01 Hengelo, Netherlands
5,000 metres 12:39.36 199806-13 Helsinki, Finland
5,000 metres 12:50.38 199902-14 Birmingham, UK indoors
10 kilometres 27:02 200212-11 Doha, Qatar road race
Two miles 8:04.69 200302-21 Birmingham, UK, indoors
15 kilometres 41:22 200509-04 Tilburg, Netherlands road race, not IAAF-ratified
10 miles 44:24 200509-04 Tilburg, Netherlands road race, world best
20 kilometres 55:48 200601-15 Tempe, Arizona, USA en route to half-marathon
Half marathon 58:55 200601-15 Tempe, Arizona, USA
25 kilometres 1:11:37 200603-12 Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands road race, not IAAF-ratified – no post-race EPO test
20,000 metres 56:25.98 200706-27 Ostrava, Czech Republic, en route to one hour record
One hour run 21,285 m 200706-27 Ostrava, Czech Republic
Marathon 2:04:26 200709-30 Berlin, Germany
Marathon 2:03:59 200809-28 Berlin, Germany current world record

Personal best


Distance Mark Date Location
1,500 m 3:33.73 199906-06 Stuttgart
Mile 3:52.39 199906-27 Gateshead
3,000 m 7:25.09 199808-28 Brussels
Two miles 8:01.08 199705-31 Hengelo
5,000 m 12:39.36 199806-13 Helsinki
10,000 m 26:22.75 199806-01 Hengelo
10 km (road) 27:02 200212-11 Ad-Dawhah
15 km (road) 41:38 200111-11 Nijmegen
Ten miles (road) 44:24 200509-04 Tilburg
20,000 m (track) 56:26.0 200706-27 Ostrava, Czech Republic
One hour (track) 21,285 m 200706-27 Ostrava, Czech Republic
20 km (road)* 55:48 200601-15 Phoenix
Half marathon 58:55 200601-15 Phoenix
25 km (road) 1:11:37 200603-12 Alphen aan den Rijn (not recognised by IAAF)
Marathon 2:03:59 200809-28 Berlin

[citation needed]

*en route to half-marathon


Distance Mark Date Location
1,500 m 3:31.76 199802-01 Stuttgart
2,000 m 4:52.86 199802-15 Birmingham
3,000 m 7:26.15 199801-25 Karlsruhe
Two miles 8:04.69 200302-21 Birmingham
5,000 m 12:50.38 199902-14 Birmingham


  1. ^Gebrselassie’s great plan“. The Independent (2000-06-02).
  2. ^Men’s 10,000m: Gebrselassie may be the best of all time“. CBC Sports (2001-08-06).
  3. ^Haile successful: Gebrselassie reminds us once again of his greatness“. Sports Illustrated (2007-08-05).
  4. ^ Jere Longman (2002-04-13). “MARATHON; Gebrselassie’s Plan Could Hurt Him in the End“. The New York Times.
  5. ^Steinle seeking London glory“. BBC Sport (2002-04-04).
  6. ^Profiles: Haile Gebrselassie“. International Olympic Committee.
  7. ^Olympic countdown: 73 days“, BBC Sport (May 28, 2004).
  8. ^Paris 2003 – from a distance“. (2003-09-02).
  9. ^Brilliant Bekele takes gold“. BBC Sport (August 20, 2004).
  10. ^Haile farewell“. IAAF (August 23, 2004).
  11. ^Khannouchi breaks world record“. BBC Sport (2002-04-14).
  12. ^Gebrselassie targets Fukuoka Marathon in December“. IAAF (2006-10-11).
  13. ^World’s Greatest Marathon Runners set for London: Gebrselassie, Tergat, Baldini, Gharib And Limo“.
  14. ^Marathon Record Is Set in Berlin“. New York Times (2007-08-30).
  15. ^Sub 2:04 perfection possible for Haile in Dubai?“. IAAF (2008-01-07).
  16. ^Second fastest of all time for Gebre in Dubai Marathon“. IAAF (2008-01-18).
  17. ^Gebrselassie opts out of marathon“. BBC Sport (2008-03-10).
  18. ^Blue sky in Beijing makes Haile regret pulling out of marathon“. Indian Express (2008-08-19). Retrieved on 2008-10-04.
  19. ^ BBC Sports
  20. ^ “Haile Gebrselassie”, n°97 on Time’s list of “100 Olympic Athletes To Watch”

External links

Sister project Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Haile Gebrselassie
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya William Sigei
Men’s 10,000 m World Record Holder
June 5, 1995 – August 23, 1996
Succeeded by
Flag of Morocco Salah Hissou
Preceded by
Flag of Morocco Salah Hissou
Men’s 10,000 m World Record Holder
August 4, 1997 – August 22, 1997
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya Paul Tergat
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Paul Tergat
Men’s 10,000 m World Record Holder
June 1, 1998 – June 8, 2004
Succeeded by
Flag of Ethiopia Kenenisa Bekele
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Samuel Kamau Wanjiru
Men’s Half Marathon World Record Holder
January 15, 2006 – February 9, 2007
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya Samuel Kamau Wanjiru
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Paul Tergat
Men’s Marathon World Record Holder
September 30, 2007 –
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Flag of Algeria Noureddine Morceli
Men’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Flag of the United States Michael Johnson
Preceded by
Flag of Denmark Wilson Kipketer
Men’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Flag of Morocco Hicham El Guerrouj
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Flag of Morocco Khalid Skah
Men’s Zevenheuvelenloop Winner (15 km)
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya Josphat Machuka
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Ismael Kirui
Men’s 5,000 m Best Year Performance
1994 – 1995
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya Daniel Komen
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Daniel Komen
Men’s 3,000 m Best Year Performance
1997 – 1998
Succeeded by
Flag of Morocco Hicham El Guerrouj
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Daniel Komen
Men’s 5,000 m Best Year Performance
1998 – 1999
Succeeded by
Flag of Morocco Brahim Lahlafi
Preceded by
Flag of Spain Fabian Roncero
Men’s Half Marathon Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Flag of South Africa Hendrick Ramaala
Preceded by
Flag of Ethiopia Sileshi Sihine
Men’s Zevenheuvelenloop Winner (15 km)
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya Micah Kogo
Preceded by
Flag of Eritrea Zersenay Tadese
Men’s Half Marathon Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya Samuel Wanjiru
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya Evans Rutto
Men’s Fastest Marathon Race
2005 – 2008
Succeeded by

Haile GEBRSELASSIE from Ethiopia, 1st, and Paul TERGAT from Kenya, at the finish line of the 10000m event during the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.




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