Gebrselassie: ‘Once you start, the joy of running remains with you’

Legendary long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, who is in India for the launch of the forthcoming New Delhi Marathon, reflects on his career, his passion for setting records, and the benefits of running among other things.

"Even today, I think, the best way to beat the stress is to run a bit, sweat a bit and enjoy it.”   -  Special Arrangement

It is a much-believed dictum that children walk to school and run back home. In case of Haile Gebrselassie, it was a 10km run to school and back, every day.

No wonder he went on to become a legendary distance runner from Ethiopia. In a glittering career stretching two decades, this diminutive runner stood tall among the greats, winning two Olympic gold medals in 10000m, four world titles, four world indoor titles and setting 27 world record timings.

Having retired in 2015, Gebrselassie, 43, remains an inspiration for the lovers of athletics, especially those running marathons around the world.

Strangely, he has a different view of success.

“I don’t see myself as a successful athlete. From the beginning, I always wanted to do something new. Most of it that I wanted to achieve, I achieved. If you say, these achievements make a successful athlete, then, yes… I have done what I had planned,” said the humble achiever, who runs his business, and heads the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.

Speaking to Sportstar on the sidelines of the launch of the forthcoming New Delhi Marathon as the brand ambassador of adidas, here on Friday, Gebrselassie reflected on his passion for setting records. “I knew people came to see me run,” he said, “It was not enough for them to see me win. They came from far off places, covering many kilometres only to watch me running. That’s why I always thought of doing something special for them.

“Say, if I prepared for a competition somewhere in Europe... any race, say, a marathon or 10,000 metres, I always thought this was an important competition and I had to do serious training… the training had to drive me to break the world record. That was part of motivation.”

When asked what fascinated him about running, the legendary runner replied, “Once you start, the joy of running remains with you. It teaches you a lot. You learn to be patient, gives you strength, especially when you are training in the woods. When the body is moving, mind is doing other things. During my two-hour training (in the woods), my mind would finish most of my office-work. It was almost like doing yoga to keep your mind free of stress. Even today, I think, the best way to beat the stress is to run a bit, sweat a bit and enjoy it.”

For someone with a glittering career, would it be difficult to pick the three best moments of it?

“I had a long career and if you ask me for three best moments, I would say, my 10000m gold medal in 2000 Sydney Olympics was the best (after becaming the third man, after Emil Zatopek and Lasse Viren, to defend the Olympic 10000m title). Second, would the triumph in the 2008 Berlin Marathon (where he set the world record of 2:03:59) and thirdly, the world record run (of 12:44.39) in the 5000m in Zurich in 1995 when I broke the previous record by nearly 11 seconds (10.91 to be precise)”