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Gebrselassie and Kastor London’s favourites


The London favourites: Stefano Baldini , Haile Gebrselassie, Martin Lel and Jaouad Gharib (from left to right).
© Jiro Mochizuki/Photo Run

In London the top-class marathon of the year will be held on Sunday, although the organizers had to cope with the pull out of Paul Tergat (Kenya) and Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain) due to injury. But there are still enough stars in the race. Olympic Champion Stefano Baldini (Italy) meets World Champion Jaouad Gharib (Marocco), and then there is the Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie as well. It’s about prestige and a lot of money: It is not only the London bonus; it is as well about points for the million jackpot of the new World Marathon Majors Series. The Flora London Marathon has not only the best field of superstars but is as well the biggest spring marathon. About 35,000 runners will participate, cheered on by millions of spectators along the course. Haile Gebrselassie and Deena Kastor (USA) are the bookmakers’ favourites in London.  

The elite athletes are running for a total prize money of 300,000 US-Dollar. 55,000 US-Dollar earns the winner. More bonuses for fast times are available. The one who will break the world record on Sunday will get 175,000 US-Dollar. The one for such an achievement in London is of course Haile Gebrselassie. The 33 year-old has collected 20 world records so far in his outstanding career. On the track he dominated for years on the long distances and was two times Olympic Champion and four times World Champion at 10,000m.

After the Olympic Games 2004 he transferred to the road. His big goal is the marathon world record, which was set by his Kenyan rival Paul Tergat in 2003 in Berlin where he clocked 2:04:55 hours. He was on the start list as well until a couple of days ago. But a calf injury threw him out of the race. „I am so disappointed. It was my dream to race against Haile again,” said Paul Tergat, who lost the 10,000 m battle at the Olympics’ final 2004, but beat him in the London Marathon in 2002. At that time the US-American Khalid Khannouchi won the race in a then world record time of 2:05:38 hours ahead of Tergat and Gebrselassie. He will be on the starting line as well.  

„I know that I can break the marathon world record, but I don’t know when,“ said Haile Gebrselassie, after he had missed Tergat’s record at the Amsterdam marathon last October, although clocking a very fast 2:06:20 hours. But prior to the London Marathon, the Ethiopian plays down expectations. He already broke two world records during the past months in the half marathon (58:55 minutes) and at 25 k (1:11:37 hours). „If you are talking about a marathon world record, everybody has to know that it is not enough to be in good shape. Everything has to be perfect. The weather, the course and the temperatures are important as well. Everything has to fit perfectly.“ Haile Gebrselassie expects a tactical race. “In 2002 I ended up being the pace maker for almost 40 k and then finished third,” said Gebrselassie. “That won’t happen this time.”  

After world record holder Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain/2:15:25) had to pull out due to a foot injury, the women’s race will be totally open. Among the favourites are Athens’ bronze medallist Deena Kastor (USA/PB: 2:21:16), Kenyan Margaret Okayo (2:20:43) and Susan Chepkemei (2:23:12).

The London winner will besides the bonus also get 25 points for the race for the World Marathon Majors’ jackpot. In a two year cycle a men’s and women’s winner will be awarded to share one million US-Dollar. After the BAA Boston Marathon London is the second WMM race this year. In fall the real,- BERLIN MARATHON, the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon and the ING New York City Marathon will follow.


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