Despite being regarded as the one of the greatest runners of all time, Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie had a troubled race in last year’s Dubai marathon. He’d set out to break his world record and finish under the two hours four minutes barrier for the first time, but things didn’t quite go to plan.
‘We made the mistake of going just that little bit too fast early on,’ he told Time Out from his training base in Belgium. ‘At the splits, the pace was well inside world record time, but once the last of the pacemakers had gone it was difficult for me to keep going at that pace.’
It hasn’t put Gebrselassie off. The runner, who hails from the Ethiopian town of Asella, still ended up winning the race and is back this year – now determined to break his astonishing world record of two hours three minutes and 59 seconds, set at the Berlin Marathon in September.
‘It feels great to be the first man under 2.04 in the marathon,’ he tells us. ‘Myself, I can do two hours, three minutes something – if I don’t get injured, maybe 2.02.59, but considering my shape and my age, 2.03.30, or 2.03.20.’ We’re hoping that Dubai might just be the place to see history made, and the superstar running is banking on plenty of support from his fellow countrymen: ‘When I got to the finish line [last year], I couldn’t believe there were so many Ethiopians in Dubai! Hopefully, they will come along and cheer me on again. My training is good, I feel great and if I can win the race and give them something else to cheer about, I’ll be happy.’
There’s a growing movement around the world of fleet-footed, shoeless runners. If you spot one of them, your first thought might be ‘That looks like it hurts,’ but actually it could be that the reverse is true – that your running shoes are the source of aching knees and fragile hips. The bare-footed brigade subscribe to the theory that cushioned shoes encourage you to pound the streets, which puts constant stress on your joints. The theory is that without shoes you’re suddenly forced to run the way nature intended – on the balls of your feet using the full movement of your feet and ankles. If you’re worried about cuts and bruises, try one of the new Vibram’s FiveFinger trainers (Dhs300-500, www.hanigas.com). They might look odd but you’ll run like the wind and hopefully for a few more years to come. JL
The practice involves employing the inner focus and flow of T’ai Chi with the energy and power of running. ‘Besides adjusting your breathing, the main thing is that you learn to use your core strength,’ explains Brian Henderson, who first heard of the technique while training for his second London marathon three years ago. ‘The focus is less on using your legs for the dynamism of the step; if you keep your core strong, everything else just flows off the side of it.’
Techniques include leaning further forward than you ‘naturally’ would so that you land on the front of your foot. ‘As a result, it’s a lot easier to push off,’ says Henderson. ‘Landing on your heel produces a braking motion – you need more energy to move into the next stride.’ Proponents claim that it allows them to move lighter and faster while expending less energy, resulting in better performance times and fewer injuries. ‘I’ve certainly had less in the way of ankle strain, shin splints and other running injuries,’ notes Henderson. The 43-year-old has gone on to complete a further three international marathons, which is all the proof we need. CJ
Chi Running, by Danny Dreyer, www.amazon.com
Personal trainer Simon Brown from the Aviation Club offers his tips for getting the most out of the marathon
Arm movement should coincide with the legs, and running with closed fists will use less energy. It’s also important to keep the rotator cuff muscle in the shoulders well worked and balanced.
The best exercises for strength, power and endurance would be squats and lunges.
Your foot should first make contact with the ground by rolling on the outside of the heel, then pushing off on the toes to finish the movement.
Think about your time, set a decent pace and stick to it – that way you won’t out-do yourself and will achieve a good result.
Working on the core muscles will be of great benefit. Correcting and utilising proper posture makes you a more efficient and better runner.