October 31st, 2007

Haile ‘focused’ on setting new world benchmark in Dubai

- Gruelling Training Regime Kick Starts Dubai Marathon Preparations -
Addis Ababa (ETHIOPIA): Fresh from his latest globe trotting exploits, it’s back to business for marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie as he targets yet another world best and a purse of US$1,000,000 at the 2008 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.

The diminutive Ethiopian running legend arrives back in his home town of Addis Ababa this week after personal and charity appearances in the USA following his shattering of the marathon world record in Berlin last month. And with the richest race in history just over two months away, it’s back to many grueling hours on the track for a man who continues to redefine long distance running.

For Gebrselassie, who shaved a huge 29 seconds off Paul Tergat’s previous best with a new world record of 2h:04m:06s, that means daily early rises and 20 miles of road training to keep him in shape for an event he freely admits is his major focus prior to next year’s Beijing Olympics.

“I am totally focused on the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon,” said Gebrselassie at the end of a brief trip to the Detroit for the city’s marathon. “Breaking the world record in Berlin was a dream for me but I know I can do better. I’ve definitely got a 2:03 within me – and with the conditions in Dubai in January, there’s no reason I can’t take the record even lower. Over the coming weeks, my focus will be on training hard and getting into the best possible shape for a record attempt in Dubai.”

Breaking records is nothing new to the man known as ‘the Emperor’ but even his previous 25 world bests would pale into insignificance should he set a new world record time in Dubai thanks to the jackpot on offer in the world’s richest race.

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council – the 2008 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will offer a total prize-fund of US$1,000,000 with a further US$1,000,000 – courtesy of Dubai Holding – to anyone who can break the world record for men or women.

And with all eyes on Gebrselassie following that stunning run in Berlin, it’s a race that is set to capture the imagination of the athletics world. During his recent brief trip to Detroit – primarily for an Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association fund-raising dinner – he was constantly quizzed as to his preparations for the big event and whether he thought consecutive world records were possible.

“I’ve said before I can run 2:03 but couldn’t do it in Berlin,” he smiled. “But I am convinced that I can achieve such a time. For now I am happy that I finally broke the world marathon record since my name is now on this record list. And in a 100 years people will still see that and say, ‘ah this was Haile Gebrselassie’.”

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