Feb 17, 2014
Haile Gebrselassie, the man regarded by many as the greatest distance runner of all time, will be the main pacemaker for the men’s race at the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 13 April, race organisers announced on Monday (17).
The IAAF Gold Label Road Race will take place just five days short of Gebrselassie’s 41st birthday.
Gebrselassie won two Olympic Games and four IAAF World Championship gold medals over 10,000m, and twice broke the marathon world record, will pace the leading men to 30km at world record speed.
It is the first time the former world record holder has run as a pacemaker in a top-class international race, and the London Marathon race director, Hugh Brasher, welcomed the addition of the legendary Ethiopian.
“We are delighted to announce that Haile Gebrselassie has agreed to run as a pacemaker in this year’s race,” said Brasher.
“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.”
Among the world-class athletes who are expected to follow Gebrselassie’s lead are: Great Britain’s double Olympic and World champion Mo Farah, the current marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang, the reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, the World and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, and the London Marathon course record holder Emmanuel Mutai.
Mekonnen is London’s latest big name
The field will also include the newest marathon star from Gebrselassie’s home nation, the 18-year-old Tsegaye Mekonnen, who has been added to the London field after his sensational performance at this year’s Dubai Marathon a few weeks ago.
Running his first marathon, Mekonnen beat a strong field to win in 2:04:32. He set an unofficial world junior best by more than a minute and was the third fastest debut marathon on a record-eligible course.
Gebrselassie first broke the marathon world record in September 2007 at the Berlin Marathon and a year later, on the same course, became the first man to run quicker than two hours four minutes when he clocked 2:03:59, a record that stood for three years.
Kipsang set the current world record of 2:03:23 at the Berlin Marathon last September.
To be on course to break that the record, Gebrselassie will need to take them through to the halfway point in around 1:01:30 and they will aim to reach 30km in close to one hour 28 minutes.
Gebrselassie is very familiar with the London course as he ran the London Marathon three times as a competitor.
He was third on his marathon debut in 2002 when he broke the Ethiopian record to finish behind Khalid Khannouchi and Paul Tergat, when the former broke the world record that day which, coincidently, was the last time it was set in London.
Gebrselassie was also ninth in 2006 but was forced to drop out in 2007 when he had problems with asthma.
He broke the Ethiopian national maarthon record five times in total, and he is still the quickest Ethiopian ever over the classic distance, as well as the fifth fastest marathon runner of all-time.