Last Monday night for the year...

"Recognize your victories." JOAN BENOIT SAMUELSON

So tonight was the last Monday night run for the year…and what a year it has been. It has been an awkward year though, the 4 in which has started it all together were dwindling at times. James, Big J and Rocket man are those who made the Monday group run from when it all started 2 years ago. We tried to attend almost every single Monday group run and felt bad otherwise if we did not.

We had a family sort of feeling to our group runs, although in many ways as the group got larger we all chatted and talked to many others in the group to get to know them…it’s just really funny how other people gather, meet and greet everyone else and the group gets larger and more renown and just keeps growing.
2 years, going on 3…wow, has it been that long? That means pretty much that when I started to become a flyer, this group started. Anyways, enough nostalgia, and on with the run…

CD did not attend tonight, as he told Rocket man and I that he was unable to make it due to dinner with his fiancé, EB. EB is also a runner, which is amazing that EB beats CD because they just are an amazing running couple, a power running couple. So, CD is very much missed as I decided to step it up a notch anyways due to the marathon being a month away.

The night was brisk, although I was in shorts, which didn’t make much of a great setting due to the fact that it was DECEMBER or the end of DECEMBER and it was pretty warm, chilly, windy and brisk night. I decided to head out quickly so the group would be catching me, but quickly caught up to me at the stop lights as I was caught in the middle…and didn’t want to be like FROGGER and hop across the moving speeding traffic.
As the lights turned, I darted off, the group behind tried to catch me (I assume) but I tried to focus at the task…which was to be at a comfortable pace at about 75% of my race pace. It felt as though I was racing and I was putting a little more effort into it…so say 80-85% as I strolled along and onto the piers. I got through one and see the group as I swing out and back onto the longer one. As I focus ahead, the group passes me and I am left alone to do “my pier” I see this yellow shirt tall guy on my shoulder. He was zooming and I thought it was JS trying to keep up, but it wasn’t him. The yellow shirt guy just strolls on by and never looks back. Wow, I am never left in the dust on these runs and I do have a huge problem with that. Although he is much taller than I, I try to catch up. He is way too fast, but still keep my pace as I see the group straight ahead.
I see the next new pier coming up, and the yellow shirt guy just passes it on by. What? Your not going to do it Mr. Yellow Shirt guy? Please! Anyways, I take the challenge and it sets me back as the group and mr. yellow shirt leaves me. I exert more energy and try to catch the group. I see Mr. Yellow Shirt pass me as he goes back uptown and I stroll around Battery Park looking for my group. I see Rocket Man and LG chatting to one another, as I know they are talking about E-board stuff. I shout out, “do I have to be the arbitrator in this discussion?” they shoo me on, so I go on ahead to catch the front pack. I am going at a reasonable pace and at mile 3-4 I feel comfortable. It takes quite a longer time to feel comfortable and run with confidence and ease, during a marathon this takes about the first 6 miles or even the first 12 miles to feel at ease and the jog pace is a run pace.

But yes, I catch up with JS, Peanut Butter & Jelly and JS…as I pass JA along the way. I am trying to maintain top speed and conditioning to assimilate what I will be doing during my marathon and reach marathon pace. It’s a good feeling when you have a good workout and about a month away from my marathon, the group knows when I am serious when I do this kind of running antics.

I stroll around Battery park, then back around the Westside highway and back uptown. I run around the piers again and feel totally in control, but a bit tired as I try to balance myself on the curbs and run in a straight line. This is a good feeling and a good confidence builder. Although one exception, my IT band in my right knee is bothering me slightly. Some running awkwardness where at times I felt my stride was at a bobble, but everything went ok. I finished up with a sprint and made it back to 13th in less than an hour’s time.
It was a good fast paced run…

No sign of finish line for Haile Gebrselassie
By Simon Hart Last Updated: 8:17PM GMT 20 Dec 2008

Haile Gebrselassie, destroyer of athletics records in one half of his life and employer of more than 500 people in a burgeoning business empire in the other, is sitting behind his desk in downtown Addis Ababa shaking with laughter. On top of the world: Haile Gebrselassie is thinking about running the marathon at London 2012 - despite being aged 39.

He has been asked for the secret of a running career that has brought him 26 world records, including his latest milestone in becoming the first man to break the two hours, four minutes barrier for the marathon, and he is recalling an incident when he and his Ethiopian team-mates had an overnight stopover in London en route to America.

"We had to stay in the Sheraton next to Heathrow but when we arrived it was about 11 o'clock in the evening and the middle of the winter. It was impossible to train outside.

"I started to think about how I could train and then I noticed that my hotel corridor was very long. I put on my shoes and started to run up and down it, and then some of my friends joined me.
"By that time it was close to midnight and people started to come out of their rooms to look at us. Do you know what happened? They all thought it was an emergency and started following us. One old woman was shouting and running down the corridor in her pyjamas."

The memory brings forth a loud guffaw before Gebrselassie's eyes narrow and he gets to the moral of his story.
"The reason I'm telling you this is that I didn't want to miss a day's training. I always tell young athletes the same thing, 'Wherever you go, whatever you do, what must your top priority be? Running'.

"In my life I do a lot of things but I never forget my training. Athletics is in my blood. The top priority must always be training, training. This is a discipline. You have to do it."

It is a philosophy that defines the 5ft 5in African who, like Usain Bolt in Beijing, took athletics into a new age of boundless possibility by winning the Berlin Marathon in September in 2hrs 3min 59sec –27 seconds inside his own previous world record.

What is all more remarkable is that he achieved it at the age of 35 while juggling athletics with his competing life as the owner of a growing property development company with assets that include commercial buildings across Ethiopia, a cinema, a soon-to-be-opened 120-bedroom hotel (he's toying with the idea of naming it 'Haile Hotel' to make it easy to find on the internet) and plans to build a complex of upmarket apartments and villas.

Oh, and he has also just a signed an exclusive deal to import Hyundai vehicles into Ethiopia. He already sells Isuzu trucks.

How does he do it? That word discipline. His daily routine begins with a 5.30am run of anything up to 30km on the high-altitude trails above Addis Ababa followed by a full day's work at the office, then another training session before returning home at 8pm just in time, if he is lucky, to kiss his four young children goodnight.
It is a treadmill that never stops. His only concession to rest is that on Sundays he has one training session, not two.

"Sometimes my life looks as if it's too much," he admits. "You're training in the morning, going to your office and doing a lot of work. It looks too much, but I've no choice and I accept that. Running is always my top priority. I'm a runner first before anything else. Everything that I have now is because of running."
We are now sitting in the garden of his home in Addis, where the fruits of his labour are manifest in a three-storey mansion built four years ago in mock-Palladian style that would be the envy of many a Premiership footballer. On one side is the family swimming pool, on the other a panoramic view of the city.
Inside, there are two giant, floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets stuffed with hundreds of medals and trophies from a 16-year international career – so many that his wife, Alem, has had to devise a complex indexing system just to keep track of them.

The only ones missing are the Olympic 10,000 metres gold medals he won in Atlanta and Sydney. He gave them to his local church to display in its museum.

He is immensely wealthy by Ethiopian standards, a fact brought home by the humble shacks just a stroll from his house, but he has made it a point of principle to invest his money in his home country.

"Why am I investing all my money here? Because this is my home town," he says. "Of course I have the opportunity to invest my money in Europe or America or wherever, but why not here?"

Not everything he does is motivated by profit. He has built and runs two schools attended by around 2,000 pupils. One of them is in his birthplace of Assela, in southern Ethiopia, where his life of running began, pounding out the 10km from home to school and the 10km back again with a stack of books wedged under his arm.

His passion for education extends to sport and he is currently mentoring 14 young athletes from developing countries as part of a project called G4S 4teen organised by the G4S security company. One of them, 20-year-old Kenyan runner Pauline Korikwiang, was in town last week to learn from the master.

As for his own racing plans, he will be competing next month in the Dubai Marathon, a race he won last year and which could do wonders for his cash flow. A world record will earn a $1 million bonus and Gebrselassie has every intention of going after it.

While he puts his own physical limit at around two hours, three minutes, he is in no doubt that the ultimate barrier, a marathon in under two hours, will one day be breached.

"Believe me, in the future someone will run under two hours. This is not just about the strength of the athlete but the technology.

"When Abebe Bikila won in Rome in 1960, he won in two hours, 15 minutes and something, and that was a world record. After 48 years, Haile Gebrselassie runs more than 10 minutes faster, but what do you expect after 48 years? I believe that in just 20 years' time someone will run under two hours."

The one blot, or rather three blots, on his marathon record are his three defeats in London, including the 2007 race when he pulled out after 18 miles with breathing difficulties.

His doctor put it down to hay fever, which means London in pollen-heavy April is now off limits, though there is one race in the capital that is definitely in his sights.

"The marathon in 2012 will be in August, which will be perfect for me," he says.

He will be 39 by then, but you wouldn't put it past him adding another Olympic gold medal to the display in his church museum. Haile Gebrselassie has no intention of slowing down.

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