Haile Gebrselassie to be lead pacemaker in London Marathon
Ethiopian to put his own ambitions on hold this year for the likes of Mo Farah
Monday 17 February 2014
London Marathon organisers had already lauded the greatest field ever assembled in one race. Now, they boast surely the greatest ever pacemaker.
Haile Gebrselassie is a two-time Olympic champion and four-time world champion, and was previously the world record holder. Despite a marathon previous best of two hours, three minutes and 59 seconds, the Ethiopian, who will turn 41 the week after the race, has put his own ambitions on hold this year to be the lead pacemaker for the likes of Mo Farah, who will be making his marathon debut in the London event on 13 April.
The sole goal by the marathon organisers is to bring back the world record to London, all the better should Farah be the man to break it, although that would surely be an unthinkable task in his first ever marathon. The current record is held by Wilson Kipsang, his mark of 2:03.23 set at the Berlin Marathon last September.
The London Marathon race director, Hugh Brasher, said: "Haile is an icon of distance running, a man who has broken 27 world records on the track and road during his long and brilliant career, and we can't think of anyone better to set our elite men up for a crack at the world marathon record.
"Everyone knows how difficult it is to break the world record on London's course, especially with such a competitive field, but with Haile pacing and four of the fastest marathon runners in history in the race, there's a real chance we will see something special."
Farah and Kipsang are among a host of high-profile athletes set to compete in the men's race. Other entrants include the defending champion Tsegaye Kebede and the London Marathon course record holder Emmanuel Mutai, who ran under Kipsang's world record at the Boston Marathon but the record was not ratified because the course was measured as marginally too downhill.
Gebrselassie may not be the athlete who once held the marathon world record for three years from 2008 but he was close to Farah and Kenenisa Bekele's pace at last year's Great North Run, only to drop back in the final mile and finish third.
Gebrselassie made his marathon debut on the streets of London 12 years ago, coming in third, his best finish in the event. He described his ninth place in 2006 as "the worst race of my career", and has struggled in the past on the streets of London with his asthma.
He held discussions in Berlin last year with former London Marathon race director Dave Bedford about returning to the race, during which the plan of performing pacemaking duties was first raised.
Gebrselassie, who has won marathons in Amsterdam, Berlin, Fukuoka and Dubai, described it is "an honour to be part of such a world-class field" but admitted he had not yet discussed the exact pacing for the race, although he is expected to lead the field up to the 15-18 mile mark.
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