Haile Gebrselassie has accomplished most things in his time as the king of distance running, but the Ethiopian who goes by the name ‘the Little Emperor’, will be breaking new ground when he lines up in the 25th Bupa Great South Run on Sunday 26 October.
The 41-year-old East African phenomenon will be making his debut in the world’s leading ten mile road race when he joins the field for the IAAF Gold Label event in Portsmouth next month.
“I love competing in the Bupa Great Run series,” said Gebrselassie. “I have run in the Great Run races in Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Australia and Ethiopia and I have won them all too.
“It will be great to add the Bupa Great South Run in Portsmouth to the list. It will be a new experience for me at the age of 41.”
The flat, fast ten mile course has attracted some of the world’s best runners in the past – Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe, Sonia O’Sullivan, Liz McColgan and Jo Pavey among them – and the distance ought to be perfectly suited to Gebrselassie, who has broken an incredible 27 world records at distances ranging from two miles to the 26.2 miles of the marathon.
“My training has been going well but I cannot indicate what time I am going to run,” added Gebrselassie, who has won two Olympic titles and four World Championship titles at 10,000m.
“I had a small surgery on my knee a few months ago but I am in pretty good shape now.”
Gebrselassie has been inspired by the performances of fellow fortysomething Jo Pavey this summer, and is delighted that the European 10,000m champion is in the elite women’s field for the Bupa Great South Run.
“I think what Jo has done this summer has been amazing,” he said. “She has shown that age does not matter – that it is just a number.”
Gebrselassie has been competing on the international scene for 23 years now, since he represented Ethiopia in the junior race at the 1991 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Antwerp. He has no plans to hang up his racing shoes just yet.
“The question is not just how long I can keep winning races,” he said. “I will always keep on running, even if I stop competing at the very top level.
“I try to balance my training with my work these days. I have more rest too. But my training is going well at the moment.”
Like Pavey, might the great man still contemplate making the podium at a major championship – possibly as a road runner, rather than a track athlete?
“I cannot say now what I am going to do in the future,” said Gebrselassie. “At the moment I could do a very good 10k, a good 10 mile or very good half marathon.
“If I was serious, I could do the training to run a good marathon too.