Haile Gebrselassie: The man who runs the world (Spikes Magazine)

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I look forward to my complimentary quarterly copy of Spikes Magazine; anyone can get a free subscription with issues sent to your door. Spikes Magazine is produced by the UK’s IAAF. The 60-odd paged magazines are smart-looking and feature-packed. They’re aimed at a younger (<25) audience, but i enjoy the heavy use of images and quality articles.

The Autumn 2009 issue includes an interview of Haile Gebrselassie, master of many distances, including the first to run the marathon in under 2:04.

It’s a fine, while brief, interview.

I wish to compare some of Gebrselassie’s comments with an interview of Zola Budd, which appeared in last month’s issue of Runner’s World (USA). While I sincerely empathised with Budd’s personal tragedies and her motivation to run to be free, I don’t hold her as any heroine.

Meanwhile, Gebrselassie’s motivation keeps inspiring new generations of runners:

The most remarkable thing about Gebrselassie is not the running, though, it’s how well he has handled the way it has shaped his life. His fame in Ethiopia is hard to overstate. Having come from a rural background, one of ten children, he understands both sides of African life. Alongside his athletics career he runs a real estate and and development business with his wife, Alem.

“At the moment I’m taking a lot of business, different kinds of business,” he says. “It’s not just about making money, it’s that you are paying people to help them up. I feel like I can do much more good in this way than if I was involved in politics.

“You know, I want to help my country. Sure, they can follow my path to a good career. But for me it is not enough. I want to be more than that. In everything I want to be a role model. When you ask kids why they started running and they say, ‘I started because of Gebrselassie’, that’s special to me. They run because of me. I keep running because of them…”

You have to respect that.

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