Gebrselassie to set the pace

Haile Gebrselassie (AFP)
Haile Gebrselassie (AFP)

London - Haile Gebrselassie, one of the world's all-time great distance runners, will find himself in the unusual position of pacemaker at this year's London Marathon.

Organisers have said on Monday the Ethiopian athletics hero would be the "lead pacemaker" when the latest edition of the London Marathon takes place on April 13 -- just five days short of Gebrselassie's 41st birthday.

Twice an Olympic and four-times a world 10 000 metres champion, Gebrselassie also broke the marathon world record on two occasions.

This year in London, officials hope he will pace the elite men's field to the 30km mark in "world-record speed".

It will be the first time in his career Gebrselassie has run as a pacemaker and London race director Hugh Brasher said Monday: "We are delighted to announce that Haile Gebrselassie has agreed to run as a pacemaker in this year's race.

"Haile is an icon of distance running, a man who has broken 27 world records on the track and road during his long and brilliant career, and we can't think of anyone better to set our elite men up for a crack at the world marathon record.

"Everyone knows how difficult it is to break the world record on London's course, especially with such a competitive field, but with Haile pacing and four of the fastest marathon runners in history in the race, there's a real chance we will see something special."

The stellar line-up that will take their cue from Gebrselassie includes Britain's double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah, the current marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang, the reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, the world and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, and the London Marathon course record holder Emmanuel Mutai.

Following his track exploits, Gebrselassie made his marathon debut in London in 2002.

He first broke the marathon world record in September 2007 at the Berlin Marathon and a year later on the same course became the first man to run quicker than two hours four minutes when he clocked 2:03:59, a record that stood for three years.

Kipsang set the current world record of 2:03:23 at the Berlin Marathon in September.

For all his success elsewhere, Gebrselassie never won the London Marathon, finishing third in 2002, ninth in 2006 and then dropping out in 2007 due to asthma problems.

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