Humble Haile Gebrselassie has a unique outlook on how to live life

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A common sight: Haile Gebrselassie celebrates one of his many wins, this time in Dubai.

For a man of such awe-inspiring achievements, Haile Gebrselassie is remarkably disarming in person.

The wiry 41-year-old is an elite member of the long-distance running pantheon, rising from a farm in Ethiopia to become a double Olympic gold medallist and fivetime world champion over 10,000m.

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– VIDEO: Gebrselassie shares his top tips ahead of Dubai Marathon

As if that success wasn’t enough, nine marathon victories – including a trio of consecutive triumphs at the Dubai Marathon from 2008 to 2010 – followed in the second half of his career after turning his hand to the most gruelling racing discipline in the world.

Gebrselassie mixed freely at the Mall of the Emirates yesterday evening (Wednesday) at adidas’ Supernova Glide Boost stand, raising cheers as he gamely pounded the floor pads on a marathon simulator.

Bedecked in his sponsors’ gear at their store, he was even mistaken for a shop attendant as a child enquired whether he had one of the German brand’s trainers in a size 6.

Haile Gebrselassie (R), Kenenisa Bekele (C) and Mo Farah race during the Great North Run in 2013.

The potentially embarrassing episode was met with the same trademark smile that beamed from the top step of the podium at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

Humility radiates from one of sport’s finest statesmen. He is now a successful businessman employing 1,600 people and determined to one day make a positive impact in Ethiopian politics.

This attitude extends to his memories of one of athletics’ greatest moments when asked about it by Sport360°, feeling unnecessarily guilty when recollecting his 0.09 seconds victory 15 years ago against Kenyan rival Paul Tergat that followed a blistering final kick from the pair which lit up the Sydney Games.

"Thinking about the past, most of the things I did were the best" – Gebrselassie

“With Paul Tergat, the race in 2000 in Sydney was amazing,” he said. “When I think about Paul, I can say he was not lucky,

“Paul was a very strong athlete. Even sometimes I blame myself, but what can you say?

“Paul was a perfect athlete. He was a good athlete in the same period of time.

“Both of us should have won the gold in Sydney.

” Gebrselassie is at pains to state he is not retired from running. Not surprising when as late as the 2013 BUPA Great North Run he finished third, slightly more than 30 seconds behind anointed successor Kenenisa Bekele and reigning Olympic and world champion Mo Farah.

New challenges exist after entering his fifth decade. Property, coffee and mining businesses keep the successful entrepreneur busy enough to delay entry into Ethiopian politics beyond this May’s elections.

But his time in public service will come, as he said: “I have to do a lot in my businesses. Those businesses have to be put in a proper way.

“A lot of people have asked me about being in the parliament. But one of the businesses I have just started is gold mining, and it is a really hard one and takes an awful lot of my time.

“For me, I want to share my experience. People ask why I want to get involved in politics, and they think I just want the position.

Haile Gebrselassie addresses a press conference in Vienna.

“It is not like that. I want to think about my country and change Ethiopia in a good way.

“It is not an easy experience what I did all around the world. I travelled for the last 25 years, it is not easy being in more than 100 countries,” he added.

A morning regimen of runs keeps Gebrselassie lean, cutting a similar figure to the one that first posted notice of his potential with 5,000m and 10,000m gold at the 1992 Junior World Championships.

Despite cutting down on his elite-level racing commitments, he admitted “it is not easy to step back” after such highs.

“We don’t talk about the retirement – I am still running,” said Gebrselassie, who has set 27 world records. “I have not done so much recently as I had an injury in my chest after falling down in the forest.

“Running is everything. All my life I have been running, I competed for 27 years.

“For me, I don’t see it as such a long time. I am doing good now, even though I don’t do what I did six or seven years ago.

“Every morning, 05:35, I am going to the forest and doing my morning session in an easy way.

“It is not easy to step back when you have been at such a high level. I not only had many good years, but also difficulties, problems and great achievements on the track – thinking about the past, most of the things I did were the best.

” Gebrselassie is in Dubai for this weekend’s Standard Chartered Dubai marathon, which will see 25,000 -plus people take to the streets.

The city and athlete have a reciprocal relationship. He claimed a trio of victories while his very presence elevated the race to the highest echelons of the marathon calendar.

“Dubai is a very special place,” he said. “Many people know it more for shopping and tourism.

“But many people come for the Dubai Marathon. I have been in this marathon three times, and it is really fantastic"

Haile Gebrselassie with his medal collection on a feature shoot in Ethiopia.

The competitive zeal remains which saw him disappointed to miss out on breaking his own world record in Dubai six years ago, despite finishing well ahead of countryman Deressa Chimsa at 2:05:29.

The determination has been transferred to his business ventures. A valuable portfolio has been built up in the last few years, successfully swapping his running spikes for sharp suits.

He refuses to hang up his vest just yet though, athletic competition remaining intrinsic.

A new vanguard led by tomorrow’s star draw Bekele will do well to follow in the footsteps of a man for whom life remains “another tournament” to conquer.

He said: “In sport, if you are No1 you take everything. It influences you a lot, It is the same in business. That’s why nowadays I have 1,600 people working in my company.

I do farming, hotels, schools. It is another tournament.”

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Marathon legend Haile Gebrselassie to put race hopefuls through their paces

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Ahead of his class: Haile Gebrselassie is considered to be one of the best athlete's in history.

Adidas will give UAE runners a boost with world famous marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie visiting Mall of the Emirates on December 21st at 5.30pm.

– #Quiz360: WIN a six-month Target Gym membership

– Kenenisa Bekele targets Dubai Marathon success

Gebrselassie will stop by to visit adidas’ Supernova Glide Boost stand at Mall of the Emirates to put race hopefuls through their paces as they see how much energy they can generate wearing Boost technology.  

Don’t miss your chance to meet the man considered to be the most successful marathon runner in history.

In his 2008 win at the marathon, Gebrselassie ran with a time just over two hours, which remains the second quickest of all time and has only been broken once since‎, by Dennis Kimetto in 2014, also an adidas boost athlete. 

Ethiopian long-distance track and road runner Haile Gabrselassie is a racing legend, with two Olympic gold medals and five world championships over 10,000m. He won the Berlin Marathon four times consecutively and has also had three straight wins at the Dubai Marathon. Gebrselassie wore his first pair of adidas running shoes in 1989 and signed with the brand in 1992. Since then, every record he has broken has been in a pair of adidas running shoes.

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Kenenisa Bekele targets Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon success

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Dubai debut: Three-time Olympic golf medalist Kenenisa Bekele will be aiming for victory at the Dubai Marathon.

With less than a week to go until Olympic legend Kenenisa Bekele makes his debut at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, the Ethiopian superstar is leaving nothing to chance as he prepares for the start on January 23.

Since signing up to run the world’s richest marathon, the three-time Olympic gold medalist has been training in his home city of Addis Ababa.

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– Dubai Marathon will be a huge challenge for Olympic champion Bekele

And with no time off over the Christmas and New Year holidays, Kenenisa – under the watchful eye of renowned coach Renato Canova – is looking for at least a new personal best, despite the presence in Dubai of many of the world’s greatest marathon runners.

“There will certainly be at least ten to fifteen athletes to watch,” he said. “My fellow Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa has already won both the Boston Marathon and the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon so he has shown himself to be a very strong athlete with great experience in marathons.”

Although the Dubai race will be only the third marathon on Kenenisa’s CV, his reputation and achievements means the eyes of the athletics world will be on him when he adds the flat course of Dubai to his two marathon experiences of Paris and Chicago.

In Paris, he won on his marathon debut with a course record and current personal best of 2h:05:04 – a time that would have taken second place in last year’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.

“I just want to go step-by-step in my marathon career,” he added. “Dubai will be a very important race for me in terms of my personal best and I have already learned from racing in Paris and Chicago. But despite my achievements on the track and cross-country, I still have relatively little experience at the marathon distance.”

Over the past few months, the 32 year-old Ethiopian has spent around four hours a day working on a mixture of training methods with coach Canova sprinkling the programme with endurance work and a running split of 80% road and forest running, 10% fitness and 10% strength.

“I’ve certainly worked hard with no time off during the holiday period,” said Kenenisa, a man with 16 World Championship titles to his name. “I’m definitely ready for Dubai and looking forward to seeing everyone at the start line. I’ve heard so much about the course and the conditions – now is the time to see it for myself.”

As well as those along the famous 42.195km route, organisers expect the grandstands to be packed from the early hours as running fans – especially those from Ethiopia – gather to show their respect for an athlete that is to distance running what Usain Bolt is to sprinting.

With an incredible legacy behind him and the kind of finishing speed at the end of a track race that ensures he remains a world record holder at both 5,000m and 10,000m, Kenenisa Bekele is sure of a hero’s welcome in Dubai next week.

Runners still looking to enter for the marathon, the 10km Road Race or the 4km Fun Run can still register online only at www.dubaimarathon.org.

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