Haile Gebrselassie, one of the greatest runners of all time, announced his retirement from the sport of running after dropping out of the 2010 New York City Marathon at the 16 mile mark. Gebrselassie blamed a knee injury as the reason for dropping out of the prestigious race. Upon arriving in New York the day before the race, he had an MRI done on the knee and was told there was substantial fluid built up inside it. He courageously started the race anyway, and hung with the lead pack until stopping after 16 miles. Gebrselassie stunned reporters at a post-race press conference by announcing that he was finished with his running career. At the age of 37, it would not be surprising for a runner to retire, but just a week before this conference Gebrselassie announced that there were many more marathons he still wanted to run. There is hopeful speculation in the running community that Haile’s announcement may have been fueled by the emotions of having to drop out of the New York Marathon, and that if he gets his knee injury fixed he will return to the sport.
Haile was born in Ethiopia, and ran 12 miles a day as a child getting to and from school. This running provided him with an enormous aerobic base when he began formal training for track and field. Gebrselassie became known in the running community in 1992 when he won both the 5000m and 10,000m races at the Junior World Championships. From there, he would go on to win numerous world championships on the track. Haile broke world records at races from 2000m to 10,000m, often breaking his own record before anyone else could.
After years of dominating the track, Gebrselassie took to the roads. At the half marathon and marathon he was as fierce a competitor as he had ever been on the track. He broke the half marathon world record on American soil in Phoenix in 2006 by running 58:55. Just two years later in Berlin, he became the first man to ever run under 2:04 for the marathon, by running a 2:03:59. This was an astonishing 27 seconds under the standing record at the time. After setting his record in Berlin, Gebrselassie tried three times to break it, each time coming up short.
In the press conference announcing his retirement, a tearful Haile said, “I never think about to retire. But for the first time, this is the day. Let me stop and do other work after this. Let me do other job. Let me give the chance for the youngsters. Of course, I am giving a chance for the youngster. Will I miss the race? It’s hard to me.” Gebrselassie was a legend in the sport, and will be remembered by all.