Haile Gebrselassie announced yesterday that he will make his long-awaited marathon debut in the Flora London race next April in what has been described by officials as one of the most expensive signings in the history of the sport.
The race director Dave Bedford, who has a signing budget of £1.45m, confirmed that more money had been paid to the 31-year-old Ethiopian than to any other runner in the event's 21-year history. Gebrselassie is thought to have received the lion's share of almost £345,000.
"I've been chasing this deal for two years,' said Bedford, who laid the groundwork for Gebrselassie to appear in last year's London event before an injury requiring an operation altered the runner's plans.
Speaking before he narrowly failed to win a fifth consecutive world 10,000m title in Edmonton this summer, Gebrselassie said his choice of marathon debut lay between London and Rotterdam, where the field is put together by his manager, Jos Hermens.
The stronger field which London attracts has operated as a challenge to an athlete who has established his superiority on the track with two Olympic titles and a number of world records.
"On the track I have always run against the best athletes," said Gebrselassie. "The Flora London Marathon offers me the opportunity to run with the best marathoners in the world. I am very excited about it."
In Gebrselassie's sights will be the time of two hours, eight minutes and 15 seconds clocked by his track rival Paul Tergat when he finished second in London in his marathon debut earlier this year.Reuse content