Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie has set world records at almost every running distance above 5,000 meters, including the marathon, which he broke two years ago at Berlin.
However, the Berlin Marathon is run on a flat course that’s designed to re-write record books and doesn’t necessarily attract the top competition. Gebrselassie has taken criticism for focusing on records instead of titles and has faced charges of ducking the top competition to chase personal glory.
Gebrselassie makes no apologies for his strategy. Why? Because that’s where the money is.
Records equal fame and fame equals endorsements, sponsorships, and hefty appearance fees. Gebrselassie will get $400,000 just for showing up at the New York City Marathon next week. The prize for winning is only $130,000.
If he sets a course record, on the other hand, he gets a bonus of $60,000 to $70,000.
Other runners think that besting tough competition on hellish courses is where the real honour is. But few casual sports fans know the name of Sammy Wanjiru, who won the gruelling marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
So what do you think? Are fast times meaningless if they aren’t set against the best competition?
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