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We’re now a few months into the adidas ‘Year of Running’. This story looks at distance running and who better to help us along than one of the greatest distance runners of all time: Haile Gebrselassie.

Gebrselassie’s remarkable career is inspiring to say the least. He reminds us that running can be a lifestyle or part of one’s culture, as well as a sport. He also reminds us of humble beginnings. Let’s look at some of the milestones of Gebrselassie’s career and some of the special Gebrselassie objects we have in the adidas collection.

Gebrselassie was born in Ethiopia in 1973. He started running from a young age. It was simply another part of life. “[It was] a kind of daily activity, going to school, helping your parents.” It was difficult to come by a pair of running shoes in the Ethiopian countryside, and barefoot was preferred anyway. “[It] was much better than shoes in those days,” he remembers fondly.

But one day when his older brother visited Addis Ababa and returned with a pair of running shoes, Gebrselassie was unable to curb his curiosity. As the next brother in line the shoes were handed down and Gebrselassie quickly put them through their paces. The year was 1989. They were Gebrselassie’s first pair of running shoes and they just happened to be adidas: it was the unexpected beginning of a long and very special relationship.

1996

the Special, Gebrselassie’s gold medal winning shoe from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta

tthe Special, Gebrselassie’s gold medal winning shoe from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta

the Special

In 1992 Gebrselassie signed with adidas and also cemented his position as a prodigious distance runner. He won the 5000- and 10,000-meter races at the 1992 Junior World Championships in Seoul. Over the following years he would go on to win four consecutive Men’s 10,000-meter World Championship titles, as well as Gold in the 10K at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, and again at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. In fact, Gebrselassie would go on to set 26 World Record or World Best times. But for all of his incredible achievements, it’s likely that his efforts in Berlin will go down as some of his greatest ever performances. In the early 2000s Gebrselassie started to concentrate on longer distances, winning half marathon events in Bristol (2001) and Lisbon (2002). In 2006 he finished the Phoenix Half Marathon in a World Record time of 58:55 and also won his first Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:05:56. The following year in 2007 he won in Berlin again, trimming a full 90 seconds off his previous time and setting a new World Record of 2:04:26.

2007

the Proplate,Gebrselassie's winning shoe from the 2007 Berlin Marathon

the Proplate,Gebrselassie’s winning shoe from the 2007 Berlin Marathon

the Proplate

But Gebrselassie didn’t stop there. His love for the German capital brought him back again. In the 2008 Berlin Marathon he won the race for the third consecutive time; breaking his own record by a further 27 seconds and coming in under the magic 2:04-mark. Running through the Brandenburg Gate at 2:03:59, he set a new standard for marathon running and established the Berlin race and the number one marathon in the world.

2008

the Neftenga, Gebrselassie’s signed, winning shoe from the 2008 Berlin Marathon

the Neftenga, Gebrselassie’s signed, winning shoe from the 2008 Berlin Marathon

the Neftenga

It’s now 2013 and Gebrselassie is still running! He’s also one of adidas’ greatest ambassadors. As a child he carried his schoolbooks in his left hand as he ran across the Ethiopian countryside each morning. To this day he still runs with a crooked left arm and it’s become his trademark. He no longer carries his schoolbooks, but his own remarkable story instead.

By the way, we also have a great video on the adidas Archive where Gebrselassie talks humbly about running, his career, his own sources of inspiration and his long relationship with adidas. See it here. It’s one not to miss!