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Two-hour mark will be broken in 20 years

india Updated: Jan 20, 2013 00:10 IST
Shail Desai

It's a new chapter in Haile Gebrselassie's life. Never before had the Ethiopian had a leisurely breakfast, a day before a marathon, and sauntered into a room with an audience, all too eager to hear from him. HT brings you excerpts of the legend's interaction with aspiring runners on the eve of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon:

Do you still run competitively?
Not with the same intensity as I did a few years back. I have a coffee plantation business and currently employ about 500 people.

How do you explain your love for running?
If you can push yourself to run continuously for four-five months, you'll realise it's difficult to stop. It's an addiction, like smoking and drinking.

What do you mean when you say you're addicted to running?
I was in a business meeting once, and was very restless because I wanted to run. So I told the gathering that I'll be back in a minute. When they came searching for me, there I was, running on the treadmill in my gym at work.

How does an amateur, who has to balance work with running, manage this addiction?
You need to feel the need to run and you'll be out there making it happen. The little time you spend in dressing up before work, dedicate it to running. Women who work, drop the cosmetics, go run.

What have been your most memorable runs?
One run I remember, though not for the best reasons, is the 10,000m at the 1992 World Juniors in Seoul. Josphat Machuka of Kenya was leading for 24 laps out of the 25. About 400 yards from the finish line, I went past him. Having lost to me in the 5000m too, Machuka was so frustrated that he punched my head from behind, a few metres from the finish. I had the last laugh after his silver medal was revoked.

You have 27 world records to your credit. What do you attribute this success to?
Discipline - it's all that matters in anything that you do in life. Without discipline, hard work and commitment mean nothing.

Will the two-hour mark will ever be beaten in the marathon? (The current record stands at 2.03.38)
If you see the progression of the world record, you'll know a lot of things go into it - how the event is organised, what shoes exist and the training methods. The 2-hour barrier has to be broken, there's no question about it. My prediction is about 20 years.