Haile Gebrselassie retires after marathon run ends at 16 miles

At 1 hour 19 minutes 40 seconds of the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, disaster struck for Haile Gebrselassie as his troublesome knee became too much of a problem and  he faded out of the race close to the 16 mile marker.

The Ethiopian runner had tweeted that morning, “I have some inflammation in my right knee because of the long travel to NY City. No big problem, just some fluids. Hopefully the knee holds.”

The greatest distance runner ever

Gebrselassie is widely regarded as the greatest distance runner ever but at 37 his career ended in New York City, where, after limping to the podium the teary eyed athlete told the media, “I never think about retiring. For the first time, this is the day. Let me stop and do other work after this. Let me do other jobs. Let me give a chance for the youngsters.”

“I don’t want to complain anymore after this,” he said. “Which means it’s better to stop here.”

Perhaps emotional distress caused him to speak of retirement and many admirers are hoping he will reconsider and run again in the not too distant future.  He had both the Tokyo marathon this coming February and the 2012 London Olympics on his radar.

Fellow countryman Gebre Gebremariam, 26, won the ING race with a time of 2:08:14, studied Gebrselassie in school “He is just special for us,” he said of his idol.

Serious knee problem

Gebrselassie’s right knee had been a problem for a few weeks leading up to the race and he had trained insistently, aggravating the joint in the process.

“He knew he had a serious knee problem,” said race director Mary Wittenberg, “He wanted to try to see if it would settle down.”

Gebrselassie had a magnetic resonance imaging test which indicated tendonitis, after which he had fluid drained from the knee.

Gebrselassie has notched up an incredible 27 world records, including 2 hours 3 minutes 59 seconds mark for the marathon. His accomplishments are unrivalled and include world championships, world records from the metric mile to 26.2 miles, and two Olympic gold medals at 10,000 meters.

Unacceptable retirement

New York is something of a bogey town for Gebrselassie, this being the second time he prematurely ended a race, the first being a half marathon earlier in the year which he dropped out of due to breathing difficulties.

Wittenberg later said that his retirement would not be accepted, asking him to reconsider, but she knew that ultimately the decision would be his.

“This is the kind of athlete that when you’ve performed to the highest of highs, he may very well decide that it’s enough,” said Wittenberg, “A knee injury with two weeks to go happens to mere mortals, you know.”

Read about other athletes like Shalane Flanagan, Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Venus Williams and Patrick Chung.

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