Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Starting the Great Ethiopian Run race from the mass start ahead of 37,000 runners, Haile Gebrselassie ran solo to finish in a time of 32 minutes and 48 seconds.
He ran the race barefoot to honor the great Ethiopian Olympic hero Abebe Bikila.
“I did this for Abebe Bekila, the father of running in Ethiopia and for the whole of Africa. He is our inspiration,” said Haile at the end of the race.
Despite announcing at Friday’s press conference that he was now just ‘running for fun’, Haile did his customary warm-up forty-five minutes before the start and ran the whole race in isolation from the masses behind him.
Many of Ethiopia’s top athletes including Tirunesh and Genzebe Dibaba, Sileshi Sihin, Mare Dibaba, Gezahagne Abera, Tesfaye Tola, Anbessy Tolosa, Ketema Negussie and Tessema Abshiro came to honour Haile and lined the finish straight as Haile with arms raised came down through the finish.
“Where did they all come from?!” exclaimed Haile, expressing his surprise at the reception from his fellow athletes.
“I’ve had some special moments in my career, and this will always be one of them. I particularly want to thank my wife and my family, and the Ethiopian public who have supported me over the past twenty-five years.
After the race Haile was presented with a special award created in diamond and gold by the disabled artist Biruk Yeshitela who earlier in the morning had completed a special 100 m event to recognise his miraculous recovery, having once been told he would never be able to walk again.