Haile Gebrselassie’s competitive running days are over.
The 42-year-old Gebrselassie is retired, having won 11 major marathons and set 27 world records on the track and roads. He won gold medals in the 10,000 meters at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
Although he has called it quits, Gebrselassie still runs twice a day and regularly finds himself in the gym. Last week, he says, he ran a total of about 90 miles.
“Running is just addictive, I’m telling you,” Gebrselassie said. “I do my morning session and in the afternoon, I get in and I have to go to the gym. I sweat enough in the morning. My body still tells me ‘What are you doing here? Go there and sweat again.’”
Gebreselassie is in New York City for this Sunday’s New York City Marathon, and on Thursday he was inducted into the New York Road Runners Hall of Fame. That same smile that invariably lit his face after races was on display once again.
He joked on the podium when asked how fast he would be able to run a marathon on Sunday.
“Two-oh-two,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “but with a car,”
Geb, as he is known throughout the running world, made his retirement announcement in May and initially bade farewell after running the Great Manchester Run 10K and finishing 16th overall in 30:25.
He was going to run the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run in Glasgow this month but withdrew when his eldest sister died of cancer. The race was supposed to be his final competitive appearance. Gebrselassie will start the next chapter of his running career by running with the masses in the Great Ethiopia Run in late November.
Gebrselassie dropped out of the 2010 New York City Marathon and then declared, “It’s better to stop here,” as he called it a career. He would return to competition the following April but only completed one more marathon.
“Even coming Sunday, I wish I was running here [in New York City] as a normal jogger,” Gebrselassie said. “Everybody wants to see Gebrselassie in front of the elite athletes. That doesn’t work. Let me work for two or three years and I’ll come back and finish, where I stopped.”
Gebrselassie set his first marathon world record in 2007, when he ran 2:04:26 to win the Berlin Marathon. He lowered that mark to a personal best of 2:03:59 one year later in Berlin, a mark that stood until 2011 and remains the 10th fastest of all-time.
Geb’s quick takes:
• When Meb Keflezighi—the 2009 New York champion, who on Sunday will be running his first marathon as a masters (over-40) athlete—was mentioned, Gebrselassie called him “amazing” and said that judging by Meb’s looks and composure on Thursday, he thinks the 40-year old could run competitively for another two or three years. “Maybe Sunday, he could do something.”
• Who is the best marathoner right now? “If you look at who is in the most consistent shape, I think Kipchoge is the one. He won Chicago and Berlin.”
• If Gebrselassie and reining 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter Olympic and World champion Mo Farah were pitted against each other in their respective prime,s who would win? “He knows the last kick. I’d finish him early.” Gebrselassie raced Farah on the track in 2003 in London, where he ran 12:57.23 for the win as Farah, then just 20 years old, ran 13:38.41 for ninth place.