London 2012 the long-term aim for Gebrselassie

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The Independent Online

Haile Gebrselassie will contest the Berlin marathon in September for a third straight year after shattering the world record in the German capital in 2007, organisers said yesterday.

The Ethiopian's time of 2 hours 4 minutes and 26 seconds eclipsed the previous record of 2hr 4min 55sec set by his friend and rival Paul Tergat, of Kenya, on the same Berlin course in 2003.

Gebrselassie decided not to run in the Olympics marathon because of worries about pollution in Beijing next month and will instead run the Berlin marathon on 28 September. He is expected, however, to take part in the 10,000-metre race in Beijing.

"I've got only positive feelings about Berlin," Gebrselassie said in a statement released by the Berlin marathon organisers. "The crowds along the course cheering and the city itself, the weather, the course – this combination means I always feel good after going home from Berlin. Things went so well the last two years and I get to know the course better each time."

Gebrselassie, 35, who said he would like to run the 2012 Olympics marathon in London, just missed lowering his record in Dubai in February, falling 28 seconds short. "I feel like I can keep improving and it's great to have London 2012 as a goal to have in the back of my mind," he said.

When Gebrselassie was taking distance running, both cross-country and on the track, to new levels a decade ago few could have imagined that even before he had retired he would be eclipsed by another Ethiopian, Kenenisa Bekele. If, as expected, the two men line up for the 10,000m final in Beijing it will be world record holder, Olympic and triple world champion Bekele who will be the hot favourite.

Bekele, 26, has a remarkable record of consistency, winning championship titles, setting records and dominating cross-country running over the past six years. This year he regained the world cross title to make it 12 wins in 13 attempts over the two senior distances. His 10,000m world record of 26min 17.53sec, set in 2005, is more than five seconds faster than Gebrselassie's world mark of 1998 – itself half a minute better than William Sigie's 1994 mark, which he first surpassed in 1995.

Bekele also has the 5,000m world record of 12:37:35, previously held by his compatriot, a double Olympic champion at 10,000m. With only six days between the 10,000m and 5,000m finals in Beijing, Bekele had said he planned to run only the longer distance, but it now looks possible he could double up as his attempt to rewrite the record books continues.