Gebrselassie smashes world record


Athletics: Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie has smashed Paul Tergat's four-year-old marathon world record in Berlin. Gebrselassie was clocked in an official time of two hours, four minutes and 26 seconds, eclipsing the Kenyan's previous mark of 2:04.55 set on the same flat and fast course in 2003.

Gebrselassie, 34, swept through the streets of the German capital in ideal weather conditions, urged on by enthusiastic crowds of more than a million spectators that lined the 42-kilometres course to cheer him and the 40,000 competitors.

"This is wonderful, it's really special," Gebrselassie told German television just minutes after crossing the finishing line with a big smile on his face. "Thank you to the people of Germany."

Gebrselassie received €50,000 for winning the race and a €50,000 bonus for the world record, on top of a reported €250,000 appearance fee.

Weather conditions were ideal for Gebrselassie with very little wind and overcast skies for most of the race. The sun broke through the clouds towards the end of the race, bringing the temperature up to 16 Celcius (60 F).

"Today it was perfect," he said, delighted that forecasts of a chance of rain were proved wrong. "It was a little bit windy, but perfect. The audience, the spectators were great."

Abel Kirui of Kenya was second in 2:06.51 while compatriot Salim Kipsang was third in 2:07.29. Gete Wami of Ethiopia won the women's race in a time of 2:23.17.

Gebrselassie had won Olympic 10,000m gold medals in 1996 and 2000, narrowly beating Tergat both times in memorable races.

He had been eager to beat Tergat's marathon world record in Berlin and came close last year before fading at the finish.

On Sunday, Gebrselassie got off to a fast start and was already 32 seconds inside Tergat's pace at the 10km mark.

He maintained that margin through the half-marathon point, clocking 62.29 to Tergat's 63.01, and at 30km when the last two of his five pacesetters retired.

Gebrselassie had tried to beat Tergat's record last year in Berlin and was on track until late in the race before falling a heartbreaking 61 seconds short.

He had faded in the final six km in the face of difficult headwinds but this year he focused on endurance training, and organisers made sure there were enough pacesetters to take him through the 30km point.

It was the third time the men's world record was set on the flat Berlin circuit, where the enthusiastic crowds and fairly reliable weather conditions are also credited with helping to make it fast.

There have also been two women's marathon records set in Berlin, where the course winds through nine districts of the German capital and has a total inclination of just 30m.

It was the 25th world mark for Gebrselassie, who has held records at distances ranging from 3,000m to the marathon. He won four successive world titles over 10,000m before turning to road racing.