Running: Gebrselassie aims at marathon record, $1 million bonus
By BARBARA SURK
Associated Press Writer
By BARBARA SURK
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Haile Gebrselassie is aiming to break his own marathon world record — and earn a hefty payday — at the Dubai Marathon on Friday.
The 35-year-old Ethiopian will pick up a $1 million bonus — on top of the $250,000 winner's prize — if he improves on the record of 2 hours, 3 minutes, 59 seconds he set in Berlin in September. That would also mean setting his 27th world record overall.
"I cannot tell you what will happen on Friday," Gebrselassie said at a news conference Wednesday. "The world record is not a big issue, but it would be something. So we'll see."
Despite high expectations, Gebrselassie does not feel any pressure.
"Running is the best medicine for those under pressure," said Gebrselassie, who began preparing early at high altitude in Ethiopia. "This is not my first world record. I will be going for the 27th, because world records always mean something."
His top rivals will be Kenyans William Kiplagat and Nephat Kinyanjui, and Ethiopians Tesafye Tola, Gudisa Shentema and Gashaw Melese Asfaw.
Gebrselassie plans to run at a steady pace and hopes to run the first half of the race in less than 62 minutes.
"Nothing above 62. If it is 61.40 or 61.45, I will take it," he said.
Friday's race will take place on a flat and faster course than previous years, which organizers believe may be enough for a new world record.
"The course compares favorably with that of 2008 (in Dubai), when Haile ran the second fastest marathon in history (2:04.53)," said Paul Hodgson, a course measurement official with the Association of International Marathons and Road Races. "Although there is no significant change in elevation profile, we've eliminated the sinuous nature of the early and latter stages of the route, which will be appreciated by the elite athletes."
Hodgson designed the course for Friday's race.
"The route is a classic 'out and back' configuration with only a minor detour required to provide the mandatory distance," Hodgson said.
Ethiopian Berhane Adere, who set the course record in Dubai last year and is the defending champion, leads the women's field. She will face tough competition from Askale Tafa Magarsa, Bezunesh Bekele Sertsu and Kenya's Helena Kirop.
"I am here to repeat what I did last year and I am going to make sure I do that," said Adere, a 35-year-old whose first victory came in the 2007 Chicago Marathon. "The weather is perfect and I hope I am able to win again."