UPDATE 1-Athletics-Gebrselassie rescinds decision to retire

* Ethiopian will run as long as he is healthy

* London Olympics still a target

(Updates with quotes from manager)

NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie has reversed his decision to retire and will continue to run competitively.

The Ethiopian great dropped out of his first New York City Marathon on Nov. 7 because of a knee injury and immediately announced he was quitting athletics.

“On Saturday he travelled to Wollega (in Ethiopia), where there was a race being held, and he said that as long as he is healthy he will continue to run,” his coach Woldemeskel Kostre told Reuters by telephone.

“Local reporters asked him and he told them he will continue running.”

Gebrselassie, 37, regarded as the best male distance runner of all time after setting 27 world records, was in Wollega as a celebrity starter for Sunday’s Great Nekemte 10-km run.

“As long as he has the desire and the willingness he can keep running until he’s 45,” said Kostre. “People here have been urging him to continue running.”

Ethiopian television reported that Gebrselassie said he would continue to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics.

The veteran also performed a retirement U-turn after calling time on his track career following the 2004 Athens Olympics when he finished out of the medals in the 10,000 metres.

Dubbed ‘The Emperor’ in Addis Ababa where he is revered, Gebrselassie won 10,000 gold at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and claimed four consecutive world titles at the distance.

He has been equally impressive on the roads and set the world marathon record in Berlin in 2008.

In a statement on Monday, Gebrselassie’s manager Jos Hermens said he had had a chance to think things over since his sudden decision to quit.

“Many people, also close to Haile, asked him to come back on his decision. When he made his emotional decision, he did not foresee the impact that it would have for his people and the youth in Ethiopia,” Hermens said.

“Haile agreed it was not the time and not the way to stop.”

Editing by Tony Jimenez. To query or comment on this story email