Haile Gebrselassie Quotes
Haile at the Olympic hunger summit in London, August 2012
18 April 1973 |
Asella, Arsi Province, Ethiopia
||1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)
||54 kg (119 lb)
||1500 metres, 5000 metres, 10,000 metres, marathon
|Achievements and titles
||1500 metres: 3:33.73
3000 metres: 7:25.09
5000 metres: 12:39.36
10,000 metres: 26:22.75
|World Indoor Championships
|World Cross Country Championships
I always tell young athletes the same thing, 'Wherever you go, whatever you do, what must your top priority be? Running.'
My father thought sport was something fun – he didn't know it was a way to make money. Then I won a Mercedes at the world championships and I gave it to him. From the moment it arrived my father said: 'Good, you can support not just yourself but me too'.
Like some high official, you have to tell your brain: 'Do it. Come on. I have to do it.'
You know, I want to help my country. Definitely I can help them, simply by winning races. Sure, they can follow my path to a good career. But for me it is not enough. I want to be more than that. In everything I want to be a role model.
I remember in particular my first victory when I achieved a very fast time in what were perfect conditions but since then the wind has always been a factor against me.
When I wake up at 5 in the morning is it just to jog? Definitely not, I give it all of my efforts.
You know for me when I promise something I want to deliver. If you don't, you have to disappear.
I was the kind of child who worked hard every day with the cows and sheep – I was a very aggressive boy.
If you're planning only to make money and nothing else, you'll be broke.
I have seen things few of my countrymen have. The first time I went on an aeroplane I couldn't work out how the lavatories worked up in the sky.
When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.
Some people start a sport just to reduce weight, or some say, 'My doctor ordered me to run and do exercise', and for others, they run for completely different benefits. But it is not like that with sport. We need to eat, we need to rest, but also we need to run.
I can't change everything by myself but I can be one of the people who are trying to change the situation.
Eradicate poverty. This is all that matters in my country. When I am out training I think about this a lot; when I am running it is going over in my mind. As a country we cannot move forward until we eradicate poverty.
Once you have commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.
I feel a social responsibility. We need to open people's eyes. There is a lack of education in Ethiopia.
When I had no shoes I was comfortable – I used to run barefoot. When I wore shoes it was difficult. To run in shoes was ok, but at the beginning of my career it was hard.
What can you do if a part of it is uphill? You can't work out another route. You've just got to run the one they give you. But they tell me London is a nice course. Even the cobbles, I hope, are not very much of a problem for me.
I will always listen to my coaches. But first I listen to my body. If what they tell me suits my body, great. If my body doesn't feel good with what they say, then always my body comes first.
You must do as your people do. If my people are poor, I must be poor. People ask me, 'Why don't you find a personal coach or a private car?' I can't. Then I won't be part of my people.
I used to run to school, 10k every day. And this at altitude, perfect preparation, really.
In the marathon a crazy athlete can just keep pushing from the beginning, at a championship you don't need a time just to win the race.
My school was six miles away from where I lived on the farm. I had to walk and run, there and back every day, through gorges and over rivers. If I was late, there was a very big stick waiting for me.
Since I achieved something, running has exploded in my country. For me sometimes it is difficult even to know who the athletes are who are competing at the highest level. There are thousands.
Many people know that Ethiopia is poor. When I break a world record, maybe people get to know something else about Ethiopia, something good. We can't make planes or cars, we don't have the materials. We do what we can.
If your body is damaged, wounded, it can be fixed, but if inside, mentally, you are wounded you cannot fix it, it's hard.
My father didn't think running was sensible. He told me running is just wasting time.
This hand is not very active always, because it was in this hand that I carried my books. My carrying hand was always my strongest. Now I think my other hand has developed more muscles from signing all those autographs.
You know the marathon in my country is just exceptional. It's like soccer in England. If England win the world cup and Ethiopia win the marathon – it's the same.
First, do enough training. Then believe in yourself and say: I can do it. Tomorrow is my day. And then say: the person in front of me, he is just a human being as well; he has two legs, I have two legs, that is all. That is mentally how you prepare.
You need three things to win: discipline, hard work and, before everything maybe, commitment. No one will make it without those three. Sport teaches you that.
Why should I say I will retire in three or four years? You retire the very moment you utter those words.
In the rainy season, sometimes to get to the first lesson we had to run really quick, because we had to cross the river to school and we'd have to go up and down the bank to find a place to cross because there is no bridge.
I'm lucky. The best possible place in the world for training is Addis Ababa, so I am home all the time except when I am racing. I like to be there, near my family, my kids, also the real estate business I run with my wife.
It is not my duty to spend my money in my country, but it is what I want to do. There is nowhere else I would like to invest.
He was not a runner, my father, but he was quick. I always remember it was very difficult to escape from him when he was angry. If he wanted to beat us he would always catch us. Even me, he could always catch me.
I haven't done a marathon for a long time. So we'll see. I will need good luck.
That is not enough. Sport has been great for me, a great learning place that if you want to achieve you can, even if you are from the poorest part of Africa.
At the moment I am a little bit politician, yes. I think that could be my next step. It is not because I want power, it is because of what I think I could do for the people.
The marathon always starts after 30K. That's where the problems start. You start without any problems, without any pain. All the pain comes after 30K. Sometimes, it's possible to have pain even in the finger.
The more you are getting older, you lose a little something. Of course there is another advantage, because of your long experience you can use it.
This is what I wanted. They tell me that London is the best field in history. I wanted to be part of that. Because everyone will be there it will be a wonderful challenge for me. You can see the best runners, how they look, how they run. For me to beat the best is what counts.