September 28, 2008 / 9:11 AM / 11 years ago

Gebrselassie smashes world marathon record

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie shattered his own world marathon record Sunday when he became the first man to run under two hours four minutes.

Ethiopia's marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie prepares to the start at the 35th Berlin marathon in Berlin September 28, 2008. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

Gebrselassie clocked two hours three minutes 59 seconds to better the 2:04:26 he set in Berlin 12 months ago, when he took the world record from his great track rival Paul Tergat of Kenya.

Wearing his distinctive yellow vest and yellow shoes, the 35-year-old was inside the required pace from the start and at the halfway stage was already 25 seconds faster than his split time last year.

Gebrselassie, who opted not to run the marathon at last month’s Beijing Olympics because of concerns about pollution, dropped his final challenger, James Kwambai with around six kilometrkilometerses left and his victory was never in doubt.

Gebrselassie’s preparation for the event was affected by a calf muscle cramp but he said the perfect weather conditions and the support of the crowd helped him make light of the problem.

“Everything was perfect,” Gebrselassie, a twice Olympic 10,000 meters champion, told German TV after crossing the line on a sunny but cool Berlin morning.

“The weather was perfect, the race was perfect and the crowd was perfect.”

“I felt like I was running in a stadium,” he added at a later news conference. “The supporters were so good they helped me feel all the time like I was starting afresh.

“And really, this was once-in-a-lifetime weather. You must remember that.”

Kwambai was second in 2:05:36, with fellow Kenyan Charles Kamathi third in 2:07:48.

Irina Mikitenko of Germany won the women’s race in 2:19:19.

Editing by John Mehaffey

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