The Forty First New York City Marathon on a chilly Sunday yesterday brought us warmness. The men's marathon was packed with top athletes including Haile Gebreselassie running for the first time and a rookie Ethiopian 26 year old Gebre Gebremariam who won many long distance running this year and who came to test the field of marathon for the first time, get experience and no one including himself expects win yesterday.
The elite runners packed together among them Haile Gebreselassie and the defending champion Meb kilfegzie until Queens Borough Bridge the 16 mile mark. Haile was forced to back down because of a knee injury we all were informed at the beginning of the race. Haile told New Yorkers on starting lineup that he had "minor" inflammation on his knee and promised to do his best. It was at Queens Borough Bridge Haile Gebreselassie and Gebre Gebremariam met, Haile said, "Go Gebre you can not stay far behind" and I am done, the call that motivated Gebre like the call of Abebe Bikila in the 1960s Mexico Olympic to keep Marathon for the third time in the Ethiopian hands. The late Mamo Wolde won and that victory is commemorated by the famous song "Maraton Leeltewha" "Marathon the Queen".
Gebre Gebremariam's idol Halie Gebreselassie retired yesterday from his colorful career not matched by anyone so far. Haile Gebreselassie is indeed the greatest athlete of the world have ever known, ended his career on the bridge looking Manhattan from distance. The tall buildings of Manhattan once tall are now eclipsed by other tall buildings built in Asia nothing to stay the "best" forever. Aging is a natural process and we accepted Haile's retirement with grace and big smile, Haile's Smile.
Gebre Gebremariam shadowed by two Kenyans battle in the pavement of Manhattan for the next ten miles. The elite pack melted away and for the first time we saw an elegant young Ethiopian with hat and glove jogging in Manhattan. The Kenyans seem confused, there was no Haile the shortest we have a taller guy never saw him before. Is he serious ? The third Kenyan seem to fall behind and the battle for the gold was between Gebre Gebremariam and the other Kenyan.
Gebre throw his glove followed by his hat and he meant business today. The Ethiopian flags were everywhere and the cheers were deafening "Berta" Go !! Go !!. Gebre kept on hammering the hills of the park and the Kenyan was left behind and it is now Gebre with the clock. The handsome elegant young rookie stormed and won the Forty First NYC Marathon in 2:08:14 with Haile Gebreselassie's smile and Abebe Bikila like style of running.
This is the beginning of Gebre Gebremariam Marathon career and there are many marathons to come. Surely he promised to come and defend his title next year. That time he will not be a rookie but a defender. The Emperor had retired here in New York City but he the baton was passed to the young Gebre Gebremariam and many other young Ethiopians.
Derartu Tulu my favorite athlete I call the "Haile of our women" failed to defend her title but no one could take anything from her glorious career. She is a decorated Olympic Gold medalist and the London Marathon winner and age is catching up with her too like Haile. However, we are seeing young Ethiopian women following on her footsteps.
The story of Haile Gebrselassie not running on difficult marathons as was alleged by NY Times corroborated by our Kenyan rivals rest here in New York. Haile tried to win it in one knee yesterday but that was not meant to be. I say to our beloved Haile Gebreselassie and Derartu Tulu thank you for inspiring our young people and wish you the best.