Haile Gebrselassie (Photo: vienna-marathon.com)

Vienna, Austria – Haile Gebrselassie, the world’s greatest long distance runner, has agreed to compete in a half-marathon race here on April 17, 2011.

“We are honoured that Haile has agreed to come to our race. Besides his legendary victories and records it is his extraordinary and charming personality, which makes him the most prominent face of our sport. Haile is the perfect ambassador of running,” says Wolfgang Konrad, the Race Director of the Vienna City Marathon.

First race in Europe since New York City Marathon
It will be Haile Gebrselassie’s first race in Europe after the Ethiopian decided to continue his career, following his original withdrawal from the sport in New York in November. The Vienna City Marathon is Austria’s biggest one day sports event.

In 2010 a total of 32,940 runners from 108 nations had entered the race through the picturesque capital. While the marathon is the main event there are other races staged parallel. Among them is the half marathon in which Haile Gebrselassie will compete.

”Catch me, if you can”
Running the marathon in Vienna was no option since Haile Gebrselassie had already agreed to compete in Tokyo on 27th February and additionally the budget would not have been big enough for such a signing. That is why organizers looked for alternative options. They finally created a special race just for Haile Gebrselassie, which will have the motto: “Catch me, if you can”. The 37 year-old will not only run the half marathon but he will also chase the elite marathon runners and their pace makers, who will run on the same course and who will get a head start. The time difference between the two starts will be determined nearer to the event. “We were able to convince Haile of our city, our race and our plans,” said Wolfgang Konrad.

Haile: “Thrilling race for athletes and spectators”
“I look forward to running in Vienna and expect this to be a thrilling race for the athletes and the spectators,” said Haile Gebrselassie, who will celebrate his 38th birthday in Vienna on the day after the event. The world marathon record holder (2:03:59 in Berlin 2008) said that he would prepare seriously and “as usual I will give my best” to put in a great performance. “It was probably our last chance to bring Haile to the Vienna City Marathon and give our spectators the opportunity to see the world’s greatest long distance runner in action,” explained Wolfgang Konrad. “Our whole organising team is really happy that we succeeded and that Haile will come to Vienna. I am sure he will get a great reception by the people of our city.”

Stellar career in long distance running
During his unique career Haile Gebrselassie won two Olympic gold medals in the 10,000 m (1996 and 2000) and was world champion at this distance four times in a row (1993, ’95, ’97 and ’99). Additionally he was the world half marathon champion in 2001 and established 20 official plus 7 unofficial world records. The Ethiopian won 9 of his 13 marathon races so far.

Source: Vienna Marathon