Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Haile Gebrselassie – The Greatest Ever?

Jan. 20, 2010 - DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - epa01996932 Olympic and world champion athlete Haile Gebrselassie attends the press conference about the 13th edition of Marathon Dubai, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 20 January 2010. The 13th edition of the competition will see thousands of runners representing around 100 nations in a three-race card dominated by the classic marathon over 42.2km on 22 January 2010. It will also feature the traditional 10km race and the 3km Fun Run.

The big event this past weekend was the New York City Marathon. An event won by Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam in 2:08.14 – unspectacular when many of the world’s top races are being won in times of 2:04 / 2:05.

The big news coming out of New York, however, was not who won, or even the results of the those that finished. Rather, the real news was the possible end to what may be the greatest career ever in the world of track and field. As Ethoipia’s Haile Gebrselassie – forced out of the race midway due to tendinitis – Gebrselassie said in his post race interview that injuries are bringing an end to his brilliant career.

How brilliant? Well he is the current World Record Holder in the marathon (2:03:59). His personal bests from 1500 meters through the marathon are absolutely world class:

Personal Bests

1500 3:33.73
Mile 3:52.39
2000 4:56.1
3000 7:25.09
Two Miles 8:01.08
5000 12:39.36
10000 26:22.75
Half Marathon 58:55
Marathon 2:03:59

And brilliant enough to set World Records over every major distance.

Major World Records

5000 12:56.96 Hengelo 6/4/94
  12:44.39 Zurich 8/16/95
  12:41.86 Zurich 8/13/97
  12:39.36 Helsinki 6/13/98
10000 26.43.53 Hengelo 6/5/94
  26:31.32 Oslo 7/4/97
  26:22.75 Hengelo 6/1/98
Marathon 2:04:26 Berlin 9/29/07
  2:03:59 Berlin 9/28/08

All told he set 15 World Records indoors and out, including  non standard events. And he was just as prolific on the medal stand. He won an Indoor World title over 1500 and three World Indoor titles over 3000 meters.He garnered World silver over 5000 meters. And over 10000 meters he won four World titles, World silver and bronze and an Olympic gold. Then moved outdoors and won a World Half Marathon title!

The only other athlete I can remember moving up in distance with that kind of success was Said Aouita – 1:43.89, 3:29.46, 3:46.76, 12:58.39 – Olympic bronze over 800, Olympic gold over 5000, World gold over 5000, World bronze over 1500 – WR in the 1500, 2 WR’s over 5000. And even Aouita is lacking when compared to Gebrselassie.

Definitely one of the greatest careers of all time, if not the greatest. I will have to sit down and take a look at those I consider the greatest and compare him with them to see where they all rate. A nice off season project that I will undertake shortly.


  1. I'd say it's pretty hard to argue against him being the overall greatest. Bekele's close, but he has not tried the marathon yet.

  2. Brilliant records...

    “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    --carmelo spyder ski

  3. I'd have to agree with you, he is the best distance runner ever. He's even better than the stats you listed though--his real 1500 PR is 3:31.76, but was indoors--interestingly, in Stuttgart, the same place where he ran his outdoor PR. And he ran 4:52.86 indoors as well.

    I'd compare him with a Paavo Nurmi or a Zatopek--and, as you say, with Said Aouita.