Haile Gebrselassie earned what he described as the most important world record of his career in Berlin yesterday as he set a new marathon mark of 2hr 4min 26sec, beating by 29 seconds the time set by his perennial Kenyan rival Paul Tergat on the same course four years ago.
Within minutes of securing his 25th world record on a course attended by an estimated million spectators, the 34-year-old Ethiopian was on the phone to Tergat to apologise. "I really wanted to do this record but I was a little bit worried about attacking attacking my friend's record," said Gebrselassie, 34, who fell 61 seconds short a year ago in Berlin after faltering over the final six kilometres.
He agreed that this latest record was the most important one he has set in the past decade at distances from 3,000 metres upwards. "Sure, there's no question about that," he responded. "It's something special. I was dreaming of it for many years. It's my record now. I'm so happy."
Gebrselassie admitted he had been perturbed by the poor weather conditions in Berlin when he arrived earlier in the week, but ideal conditions on the day allowed him to attack a flat course on which five previous world bests had been set.