January 18th, 2008

Haile Has New World Record In His Sights

- Legendary Distance Runner Heads $2 Million Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Line Up -

Dubai (UAE): Double Olympic 10,000m champion and current marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie goes into today’s (Friday) Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon red hot favourite to win the world’s richest race and with many tipping him to set a new world record in the process.

Should the diminutive Ethiopian legend storm across 42.2km of Dubai’s streets and win the event in a time under his current world record best of 2:04:26 then he will collect a cool $1 million bonus in addition to the first prize of $250,000.

Arguably the greatest distance runner of all time, Gebrselassie spent the eve of event relaxing in the splendour of his hotel suite at Raffles Dubai – the event’s hotel HQ – but today (Friday) the good life stops as ‘Geb’ prepares for his second marathon world record attempt in less than four months.

Back in September, Gebrselassie took 29 seconds off the previous best of arch-rival Paul Tergat at the Berlin Marathon. One of only three men in history to run under 2:05 for the marathon, it further solidified his incredible versatility giving him the fastest range of times of any distance runner in history, going from 3:31.76 in the 1,500 meters to 2:04:26 for the marathon.

“This is undoubtedly a monumental day for athletics in the UAE,” said Ahmad Al Kamli, General Co-ordinator of the event.

“Thanks to the support of Standard Chartered and Dubai Holding, the Dubai Marathon has grown in stature and now, as the richest event of its kind in the world, has created a real buzz in the athletics circles. Having Haile agree to run in Dubai takes the event to a completely new level.”

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 offers a total prize-fund of US$1 milion with a further US$1 million – courtesy of Dubai Holding – on offer for a new world record for men or women.

“The top priority is not the money, it’s the race,” said Gebrselassie. “But the marathon is not an easy event, you cannot predict what will happen. Everything is perfect, I hope it will be more perfect for the race”.

Geb’s manager Jos Hermens and the athlete himself have planned the race to the last step. “We’ll go for an ‘negative split’,” said Hermens, indicating a quicker pace for the second half of the race. “He did 62.29 in Berlin and I’d like him to do 62.15 here, but not too fast. The most important thing is that he feels good at 30k, when the pacemakers drop out, and he has to do it himself”.

And if the most famous Ethiopian in the world can do just that, then he will retire to the Raffles Dubai over $1 million richer.

The race itself gets underway at 7am with the 10km Road Race at 10.30pm and the 4km Fun Run to raise funds for Standard Chartered’s ‘Seeing Is Believing’ initiative at 11.30am.

“The roads will be close for the duration of the marathon and we encourage everyone to come along to watch the race unfold on the big screen pitched at the finish line outside Gate 6 of Zabeel Park,” added Event Director Peter Connerton.

“We’ve worked round the clock against the weather this week but the stage is set for a great day’s racing. In addition, we have sponsors’ activities, kids’ entertainment, a Battle of the Bands and plenty more at the Entertainment Village where entrance is free of charge.

For those looking to drive to the event, free parking is available at Dubai World Trade Centre Car Park F. Some 200 taxis will alos be available at the car park for those looking for transport after the event.

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