Long-distance great Gebrselassie retires

November 23, 2015, 6:21am

Reuters on Super Sport, Photo: Getty Images

Haile Gebrselassie, considered one of athletics' greatest distance runners, ran his final competitive race at the Great Ethiopian Run on Sunday, bringing to an end a record-breaking career.

Over 40 000 participants, resplendent in green t-shirts bearing his image and the slogan 'Running For The Planet' took part in the 15th edition of the race through Addis Adaba.

Gebrselassie, who was surrounded by top Ethiopian athletes, including Tirunesh Dibaba, Sileshi Sihine and Genzebe Dibaba before and after the race, fired the starter's pistol before joining in with the masses to race.

Before the race, the two-time Olympic and eight-time world champion said he was sad to be competing for the last time.

"Especially here in Ethiopia, this one is going to be the last one. I am a little bit, you know, sad. What can I do? It is over 28 years of running. This will be the last one here in Ethiopia," said Gebrselassie.

After crossing the finish line barefoot, Gebrselassie thanks his family and the people of Ethiopia for their support through a career that spanned 28 years.

"I would like to say thank you to all the people who supported me the last 28 years, especially my wife and children and people of Ethiopia and all," said a smiling Gebrselassie.

This is not the first time the 42-year-old has called it quits.

Earlier this year he said he was retiring from competitive running after finishing 16th in the Great Manchester Run and he tearfully retired five years ago after knee problems forced him to drop out of the New York City Marathon but returned to racing a few months later.

Nearly unbeatable on the track in his prime, he won his first of eight indoor and outdoor world championships at Stuttgart in 1993 and went on to hold world record in a variety of different long-distance events, including the marathon, becoming an inspiration for generations of aspiring Ethiopian runners.

"Haile has been an inspiration for all the young Ethiopian athletes," said runner and fan Hailu Yirug. I don't feel bad because he has made many replacements. He has served enough and It is a process. It is okay because he has been a cause for many many young athletes we see today."

Gebrselassie's Olympic medals came in the 10 000 meters in successive Olympics, 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney.