StanChart Marathon 2014: Fans Meet Haile Gebrselassie, the Greatest Long Distance Runner Ever

The Emperor of Distance Running.

The Emperor of Distance Running.

This morning, the dreams of about 30 local runners from the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) finally came true – when they came face-to-face with Haile Gebrselassie, the Emperor of Long Distance Running. Moreover, they also got a rare opportunity to run side by side with this running legend.

Gebrselassie is in town to take part in the SCMS

Ethiopian runner Gebrselassie, who won two Olympic gold medals and four World Championship titles during his stellar athletics career, is in town this weekend to take part in the 10km race category of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS).

Local runners were star-struck

And many of the local runners were completely overawed at the mere sight of Gebrselassie. In fact, as soon as he came out on to the Kallang Practice Track, where the session was to take place, he was immediately mobbed by plenty of photo and autograph requests.

image-Haile G

Meeting Haile Gebrselassie is a dream come true for these runners

One of these runners was 31-year-old freelance coach, Sky Khoo Zhihao. Said Khoo, “I was surprised and shell-shocked in a way when I met him, but it is an honour to meet Haile Gebrselassie, a world-class superstar.”

“Today was the first time that I met him. He is very pleasant and humble and there is a lot to learn from him in terms of running,” Khoo continued.

Indeed, being the pleasant and friendly person that he is, Gebrselassie very politely conceded to all the photo and autograph requests that came his way, with a big smile on his face as he did so.

Gebrselassie lead the runners out on an easy warm-up run

With Haile.

With Haile.

Following the photo and autograph requests, Gebrselassie lead the runners out on a simple warm-up run. This comprised of two rounds of the stadium track. It had appeared to be an extremely easy effort for Gebrselassie, who was still talking naturally and very much composed at the end of the short run.

Most of the runners were able to keep up pretty well with Gebrselassie. However, I observed that a small handful of the runners were starting to get quite out of breath and were rather exhausted at the end of the two rounds.

A series of stretching drills followed the run

But Gebrselassie wasn’t done with his training session yet. After the run, he took the runners through a series of simple stretching drills for a range of body parts, including the legs, calves, quadriceps and shoulders. Eager to learn from the expert, the runners listened with plenty of enthusiasm and they all attempted to copy Gebrselassie’s moves to the tee.

Many of the runners definitely learnt a lot from the session, too, as well as through chatting to Gebrselassie for additional tips afterwards. Khoo, for one, is considering putting Gebrselassie’s teachings to practice, for future races. He said, “I am working on this for upcoming track races and road runs. One of these is the 200m x 5 intervals, which will help with speed work for my 1,500m.”

An eye-opener to meet some of Singapore’s running talent

Haile autographs a young fan's running shirt.

Haile autographs a young fan’s running shirt.

For Gebrselassie, it was an eye opener to meet some of Singapore’s up-and-coming runners too. He said, “They are very determined. They really love running and with the right preparation, I think that they can do well at it.”

Gebrselassie’s Tips for SCMS

And what last minute running tips does the Emperor Gebrselassie have, for today’s aspiring runners?

Said Gebrselassie, “Try and relax on race morning and have a breakfast with plenty of carbs in it. Then during the race, take enough energy and hydrate yourself regularly.”

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