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A Long and Glorious Run

March 05, 2012
March 05, 2012

Table of Contents
March 5, 2012

LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
THE MARLINS
NFL DRAFT 2012
  • The combine kicked off two months of massive intrigue at football's most important position. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn—quarterbacks stand front and center as the draft and free agency seasons begin

PRO BASKETBALL
PRO HOCKEY
SPECIAL REPORT
  • AFTER THREE STRAIGHT TRIPS TO THE FINAL FOUR, BEN HOWLAND'S BRUINS UNEXPECTEDLY BEGAN TO STRUGGLE. FORMER PLAYERS AND STAFF MEMBERS TELL A CAUTIONARY TALE OF HOW DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS AND MISTAKES IN JUDGMENT CAN SABOTAGE EVEN A STORIED PROGRAM

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A Long and Glorious Run

At 38, Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie may at last have come to the end of his Olympic road

The worldwide takeaway from Haile Gebrselassie's fourth-place finish in last weekend's Tokyo Marathon was that the man many consider to be the greatest distance runner in history had probably missed his final chance to compete in one last Olympic Games. Gebrselassie, 38, faded from the lead and ran 2:08:17; three other Ethiopians have already run 2:05 or faster this year, which makes it highly unlikely that Gebrselassie will be selected to the national team for the London Games.

This is an article from the March 5, 2012 issue

A more appropriate analysis would have focused on the remarkable fact that a man of Gebrselassie's age was in contention for an Olympic berth some 16 years after he won his first gold medal, in the 10,000 meters on a rock-hard track in the stifling heat of Atlanta. His has been a career of unprecedented length and quality, spanning distances from the 1,500 meters (in which he won the 1999 world indoor title) to the marathon (in which he twice set the world best). Gebrselassie tore through the record book for more than a decade, carrying a tiny body (5' 5", 123 pounds) with a metronomic stride. From 1995 through '98 he broke world records in the 5,000 and 10,000 three times each. When Gebrselassie moved up to the marathon, he ran world bests in the Berlin marathons of '07 (2:04:26) and '08 (2:03:59), the latter since broken. He remains the only man to run faster than 2:05 three times.

Yet the enduring Gebrselassie image for most fans is his second 10,000-meter Olympic gold, at Sydney in 2000. Seemingly beaten in the home stretch by Kenyan Paul Tergat, Gebrselassie summoned a brilliant kick to overtake Tergat at the line. Gebrselassie, who off the track has become one of his country's leading entrepreneurs, says now that he is not finished trying to make the London team, but there would be no shame in failing. His legacy is towering, and secure.

PHOTOSHUJI KAJIYAMA/AP (GEBRSELASSIE)AT THE FINISH Twice the world's fastest marathoner, Geb faded to fourth in Tokyo, likely costing him a final shot to go to the Games.