【Chasing After Haile Gebrselassie】

 

Just one year ago, I saw him. People call him “the emperor.” I was too excited that I couldn’t control my emotion at that time.

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His name is Haile Gebrselassie, who is called “the emperor of Ethiopia.”

– The Running Legend –

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He won two Olympic gold medals in the Men’s 10000m in Atlanta and Sydney Olympics.

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Moreover, he won four World Championships titles in the Men’s 10000m from 1993 to 1999. Not only was he a champion in the 10000m, he set a world record in the 5000m. Surprisingly, he set world records 27 times in all his races (which ranged from 5000m to full-marathon).

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After he started to run marathon, he also set a world record in a half-marathon, and he won 9 out of 17 marathon races. He won the first place in the Dubai Marathon three consecutive years and the Berlin marathon in four consecutive years (in which he set two world records).
No one successfully switched his career from the track to marathon at such a high level. He made unprecedented accomplishments.

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Haile handed over his position to Kenenisa Bekele. This is the legacy of Ethiopian’s running history.

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What he had done in the world of running is enormous.
A lot of people respect him because he is very frank, openhearted, and humble.

Businessman

After his career as an athlete, he started his own business. He is running his own company related to real-estate, restaurant, hotels, and sports gym, etc,. He is not only a pro-runner but also a successful businessman. He is absolutely a great man.

– What I Experienced in Singapore –

When I was a student, Haile was just changing his career from the track to marathon. He decided not to join the Beijing Olympics due to terrible air pollution.
After that event, I retired from competitive races, taking off my running shoes.
Five years later, I started running again. At that time, Haile was still a pro-runner but I didn’t see him on TV very often.

In Autumn 2014, I registered for the Singapore Marathon online, and I decided to run 10K. After a few days, I became so excited because it turned out that Haile would run 10K in the Singapore Marathon. It was like I won the lottery. On top of that, this race would be his first race in Southeast Asia.

“What if I see Haile? I may be able to run with him! “

I got a chance and went ahead believing myself.

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The beginning of December in 2014, luckily I was at the press conference held at the Sports Hub in Singapore. I also got a “lottery ticket” to join Haile’s running session.

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I became like a little child when I saw Haile. I will never forget his every single word. I can’t understand English completely in daily life, but I could understand his words completely.

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He spoke very confidently. He know everything about world, so his words were totally different from others. He also made everyone aroud him happy. My first impression about him was “perfect”. I really respect him.

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– Singapore Marathon Press Conference –

  • <How he maintains his motivation>
    “What’s the reason for your running? Why do you run? To lose your weight? To live a long and healthy life? To beat someone? Or to win first place?
    For me, my motivation comes from myself, my family, and Ethiopia. My responsibirity is to be a proud representative of Ethiopia. This is my motivation to run. Set your goals high and never give up.”
  • <The distance he runs before a full-marathon>
    About 200km a week = About 850km a month
  • <High-altitude training>
    He lives in the Highlands of Ethiopia. Two weeks before the race, he goes down the Flatlands.
    (Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, is located 2400m above sea level. This city is the third highest city in the world.)
  • <Nutrition>
    He eats well to balance protein, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral.
  • <When he was a child>
    He was raised in the countryside of Ethiopia. He walked 6km to school everyday. He had never gotten on a car to school.  When he was 16, he went to Addis Ababa following his older brother and started training.
  • <Overseas race trip>
    He ran his first international race in the Chiba International Ekiden when he was 18. He won 900US$ prize money and got motivated.
    In Seoul 1992, he got his first international titles in the 5000m and 10000m in World Junior Championships. In World Championships Stuttgart, Germany, he got his first senior international titles in the 10000m. He got a Mercedes Benz. Everyone knows his great accomplishments.
  • <Stay Hungry>
    You should always stay hungry. If you spoil yourself, you will never be strong.
    “My son lives very cozy and satisfied life, he won’t be a very successful athlete.” 
  • <Stretch>
    He stretches his hamstrings and calves.
  • <Toe-running>
    He usually ran using his toe except full-marathon. When toe-running works, you always have strong and stretched muscles.
  • <How to swing his arms>
    He swings his right arm back and forth while the left arm remains static. He said he developed this running form while running to school carrying his books.
  • <Machine-based Training>
    He has been using training machines to maintain his muscle strength since his late 30s. Machine-based training is also one of hard training he does.
  • <Hiroyuki Watanabe and World Junior Championships>
    When Haile won his first world champion title, Hiroyuki Watanabe got the bronze medal. When I told him that I came from Japan, Haile said to me, “What is his name?  Who is coaching the running team right now?” Even though he didn’t remember Mr. Watanabe’s name exactly, he remembered clearly that he competed with a Japanese runner.

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(5, Dec, 2014, Kallang, Singapore)

– The Day Had Come –

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The race day had come. The day I would run with the emperor Haile.

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(by Running Shots, Erwin)

I ran with Haile and other Kenyan runners only the first 2km. It was only for 6 minutes. But I will never forget the 6 minutes. It was like a morning running session of an African elite team.

Haile kept a nice and relaxed upper body. The swing of his arms and stride were so dynamic. I can’t express my excitement in a sentence. But I will never forget the day that I stood on the starting line and ran with Haile as a competitor.

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(by Ming Ham)

When I saw Haile’s back, I was convinced that I got a great experience in Singapore. My experiences are irreplacable.

 

 – The Emperor Retired –

He announced his retirement in May 2015. He retired from competitive running, not from running. He said he can’t stop running. This is his life.

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 His races and accomplishments remain in our mind over generations.

– The Legendary Race –

Haile won a lot of races in World Championships and Olympics, and he set a lot of records. But the races he was defeated or the races he handed over his position to the next generation are also the memorable races for us.

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“Bupa Great North Run 2013” is definitely the most memorable race. Haile, Bekele and Mo competed. They are (or used to be) the world record holders between 1993 and 2015. They competed in half-marathon.
Mo Farah won over 5000m and 10000m in this year’s World Championships in Moscow. Since Mo is a UK’s runner, he met two rivals in his home country.

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In almost entire race, Haile was ahead of Bekele and Mo. Haile ran from his heart. Haile left Bekele behind once, but in the last mile, Bekele attacked on a steep portion to leave Haile and Mo behind. Haile finished the third, he was defeated by his two rivals. But he finished two minutes before the London Olympic Japanese runner Arata Fujiwara. Haile’s finish time was 60:41, which is very close to Japanese half-marathon record. I can only say “Incredible.” People always talk about the match between Bekele and Mo for the last part, but this is not what I really want to tell.

The great Haile encouraged Bekele and Mo.

 

 

Posted by Tsukasa Kawarai

Translated by Rie Kawarai

Photo (#8〜16) by  Tsukasa Kawarai

(c) 2016 T.Kawarai all rights reserved

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