Running Heroes #2: Haile Gebrselassie

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When talking about the top endurance runners in history Gebrselassie is one of the first to think of. With his 26 world records and numerous gold medals he was and will be an inspirations for many runners to come. In this post I want to shed some light on the history of this extraordinary athlete.

The Early Days

Haile was born in April 1973 in central Ethiopia. It might well be that the foundations for his later success can be found in his childhood. As a student the school was 10km away from his home. A journey he ran every morning and evening with his books under the left arm. According to himself his crooked left arm is a physical leftover from these days.

At the age of 13 he won a race against one of his teachers during a school break. After winning a school competition and other races his talent became obvious and he wanted to become a runner. So in 1990 he joined the elite runners of Ethiopia in Adis Abeba and started training with them. In the same year he ended up in fifth place in the national cross-country championship.

In the early 90s just short after Gebrselassie started to train professionally he had success in Cross Country World Championships as well as on the track in 5k and 10k distances. These achievements proofed his extraordinary abilities and promised a bright future for the young athlete.

A Career Full Of Records

Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie

What followed after winning his first gold medal in the 10k race at the World Championships was just extraordinary. At the age of 21 Gebrselassie ran to his first world record on track at the 5k race in Hengelo. It would sure fill an entire book (there are some already) to mention all the achievements in Gebrselassie’s career. A few numbers though are pretty impressive:

  • 26 world records on track and street races
  • 2 existing world records (20k and one hour run in 2007)
  • 2 olympic gold medals (10k races in 1996 and 2000)
  • 7 medals in world championships (4 gold, mostly in the 10k competition
  • 4 time world junior champion (5k, 10k, half marathon single and team)

His accomplishments are even more impressive when considering that Gebrselassie was suffering asthma. For example at the London Marathon in 2007 he needed to quit due to sudden pollination. He also did not start at the olympic marathon in Beijing in 2008 stating that the pollution would be a health risk.

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Of course his success was not only talent but hard training. He averaged 200 – 300km per week mostly in the Ethiopian mountains above 10,000 feet (3,000m). Gebrselassie also didn’t think he was overly talented. He once said that he believed that talent is evenly distributed around the world. You just have to do something with it.


One of the big goals Haile had been to participate in the 2012 olympic games in London. After he had to quit the New York Marathon in 2010 he surprisingly ended his active running career at the press conference after the event. But only one week later he announced that he will still participate in races after recovering from his knee injury.

Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie

He kept running long distance races with decent success but couldn’t reach his best days anymore. After barely running any races in 2014 he retired from professional running in Mai 2015.

Haile Gebrselassie was able to run races at pro level for over 25 years winning races all over the world and setting many world records.

Business Man

Gebrselassie is not only an awesome runner he is now also one of the most successful business men in Ethiopia. His company “Haile & Alem International” constructs, rents and manages appartements & houses. Apart from that he also has a tourist hotel with 150 rooms. He also supports and promotes local athletes and spends money for infrastructure.

Gebrselassie will also be involved in athletics in future as president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.

Haile’s success his spirit and smile will for sure be an inspiration for future generations of endurance runners in and outside of Africa!

Happy running

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