FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Susan Reid/Ian Monahan
Elite Racing, Inc.
Half Marathon World Record Challenge set for
P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona
Running great Haile Gebrselassie chooses Valley of the Sun for
world half-marathon record attempt
PHOENIX, Ariz. (Dec. 1, 2005) – Haile Gebrselassie, universally regarded as
one of history's greatest distance runners, has chosen P.F. Chang’s Rock
‘n’ Roll Arizona as the venue for his attempt at breaking the world record
in the half marathon. Gebrselassie, from Ethiopia, is a two-time Olympic
gold medalist, a four-time world champion and over the course of his career
has broken an astounding 18 world records on the track and roads.
P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon is set for Sun.,
Jan. 15, 2006 and Gebrselassie, 32, will challenge the world record of
59:17 held by his great Kenyan rival Paul Tergat, who also owns the world
record in the marathon. Kenyan youngster Samuel Wanjiru, 18, recently
lowered the half marathon record by one second to 59:16 at the Fortis
Rotterdam Half Marathon on Sept. 11, 2005, but the mark is awaiting
ratification by the IAAF.
Gebrselassie's January world record attempt is unique in that he will run
the latter half of the full marathon course in Arizona, providing him with
an IAAF-certified and record standard course.
"There is no better half marathon in the world in January than Arizona'"
Gebrselassie said from Ethiopia. "The weather is perfect for the half
marathon and I have heard it is a very wonderful race to take part in."
"This is not a preparation race for the London marathon in April," he
added. "I will be training specifically for Arizona and plan on running a
very fast time there. It will be a serious race and not just a preparation
Gebrselassie is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 10,000m, winning
his first at the 1996 Atlanta Games when he staged a furious sprint on the
final lap to beat Tergat in an Olympic record time of 27:07.34. He
successfully defended the title at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, again
defeating Tergat, this time edging him on the final stride in what still
stands as one of the most exciting finishes on the track in Olympic
history. Gebrselassie is also a four-time world champion at 10,000-meters
with titles in 1993, '95, '97 and '99.
His 2005 season has been impressive. Gebrselassie won the ING Amsterdam
Marathon in October, running a personal best and the fastest time in the
world this year, 2:06:20.
"It is an overwhelming honor to have Haile Gebrselassie competing at P.F.
Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona on January 15," said Tim Murphy, president of
race Elite Racing, Inc., the event's founder. He is the best distance
runner in the world and we are thrilled to host his world record attempt.
Haile has a history of not just breaking records, but shattering them. And
he is such a charismatic person, a little guy with a big heart. What a
great ambassador for the sport of running."
Having embarked on his rise to fame while his country was coming out of
political unrest in the early 1990s, Gebrselassie became a national hero in
Ethiopia where he is known as the Emperor and paved the way for numerous
elite runners who have followed in his footsteps. Standing a mere 5 feet, 3
inches tall and living in one of the poorest countries in the world, he
grew up in a mud hut on the family farm and ran to school every morning,
six miles each direction, and as an adult ran with his left arm crooked,
the effect of years spent running with books under his arm. When he was 16,
without any formal training, he entered the Addis Ababa Marathon and
finished in 2:42. Now, millions adore Gebrselassie. When he returned home
after winning his gold medal at the '96 Olympics, an estimated one million
people greeted him at the airport, a scene running analysts likened to the
frenzy that followed the Boston Red Sox upon winning the World Series in
2004. In fact, Walt Disney Pictures made a movie chronicling his life to
that point, Endurance.
Gebrselassie was born in the province of Arsi in Central Ethiopia and is
the eighth of 10 children in his family. He and his wife Alem have three
daughters (Aden, Miharet, Meseret) and a newborn son (Nathan).