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Dubai (UAE): Haile Gebrselassie received some powerful support on the eve of his world record bid in today’s (Jan 16) Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
The Ethiopian running legend swapped his racing vest for the overalls and helmets of the Dubai Victory Team in a special one-off meeting between the eight-times Class 1 World Powerboat Champions and a man widely recognized as the greatest distance runner of all time.
Geb took time out from his preparations for the biggest race in the Middle East to get up close and personal with powerboat star Nader Ben Hendi – the current Class 1 World Champion – as well as one of the 160mph boats, designed and built in Dubai.
“It was great of the Victory Team to bring along this beautiful boat,” smiled Gebrselassie, who was quick to take to the cockpit with Ben Hendi for whirlwind introduction to the high tech equipment that helped take Bin Hendi and Mohammed Al Marri to the 2008 Class I World Championship.
“Nader told me all about throttling the boat and how everything inside the cockpit can help you navigate the course. It’s a really impressive set-up and maybe I should stop running and take up driving powerboats!”
Gebrselassie takes on the challenge of the classic Marathon distance today (Friday) after making his final preparations. Asked if he had the same pre-race feeling he had prior to each of his previous 26 world records, the man from Addis Abba simply smiled. “You know, I feel good. That’s all I will say. And if you feel good and everything is right, then records happen. If they don’t, then you have to accept it and move on.”
Starting at 6.30am from The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, classic 42.195km race will see more than 1,200 marathon runners tackle an “out and back” course with the turn at the towering UAE flag at Union House.
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will see all activities operate out of The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina.
“I have to be very fit to race Class 1 but I’m nowhere near as fit as this man,” said Ben Hendi as he wished Gebrselassie luck on behalf of the Victory Team. “He is an amazing athlete and we’re honoured that he took the time to learn more about us and our success.
After receiving a special “Haile” Victory racing shirt and a commemorative gift, Geb headed back to his temporary HQ at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Resort and Marina. It may have been all in a day’s work for one of the world‘s greatest sportsmen but yet again he had charmed another field of competition with his class and humility. The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon – and the UAE – is lucky to have him and fans are urged to set the alarms and turn out to support a true sporting legend in action.
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by Dubai Holding, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, PUMA, Arab Media Group (AMG), TNT and Fitness First with assistance provided by Dubai Sports Council, RTA, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Police.
IMAGE: Different Class – Gebrselassie takes to the cockpit of a Victory Team Class 1 powerboat alongside Class 1 World Champion Nader Ben Hendi