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Haile Gebrselassie: A special birthday party in Vienna

On Monday, a day after the Vienna City Marathon where he will compete in a unique half marathon, Haile Gebrselassie will turn 38. The race was created especially for Haile and has the motto: ,Catch me, if you can’. While Gebrselassie will run the half marathon, which is staged parallel to the marathon in Vienna, he will at the same time chase the elite marathon runners, who will get a head start of two minutes.

When the marathon world record holder was told about the idea in autumn 2010 he instantly liked the unusual format. “It is a very good idea and something different,” said Haile Gebrselassie after his arrival in Vienna on Friday morning.

“This year I will celebrate my birthday a day earlier – on Sunday,” he added during what must have been the most packed press conference in the history of the Vienna City Marathon, which began back in 1984. Five months after his initial retirement from the sport and the following decision to overthrow this and continue his career Haile Gebrselassie looks determined as ever and fit. So there could not be a more suitable birthday party for him than competing in a big race and winning it.

There is no doubt that Haile Gebrselassie will be the winner of the half marathon since he will have no formidable opposition. Additionally the two minute head start of the elite marathon runners should not be enough for them to reach the half marathon point in front of Haile Gebrselassie.

But it will still be interesting to see how the two-time Olympic 10,000 m champion and former world half marathon record holder will chase the athletes in front of him. Obviously Haile will run without a pacemaker, but overtaking the various groups and runners of the marathon should spur him on.

Patrick Ivuti, one of the main contenders for victory in the Vienna City Marathon, welcomes the idea of such a chase race. “It is a good idea. I have no problem with Haile chasing us, because he will be in a different race,” said the Kenyan, who features a personal best of 2:07:46. “I expect him to overtake us. But in fact it might spur us on a bit as well and make us run faster.”

“I intend to run a fast time on Sunday, but I don’t want to speculate on what might be possible,” said Haile Gebrselassie and added: “If I would run only 62 or 63 minutes then people would say: Is this supposed to be Haile?”

Regarding his opponents in the chase race he said: “There are two possibilities: Of course may be someone could think, I want to be ahead of Haile at the half marathon.

“But if they should be faster than me they will get a bad marathon time in the end. Because, as I have experienced myself, in the marathon you should not run too fast in the first half.”

On the other hand Haile Gebrselassie reassured: “There is no worry for the marathon runners. I will not make a last minute switch and decide to run the full distance instead of the half marathon.”

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