There are days that you’ll never forget. Dancing at 4am to Chemical Brothers at Benicassim in 2004, demanding “a moment” of Tony Blair’s time, while my friend captured us on camera in Paris, arriving in Arles with the boyfriend just in time to watch the Tour de France whizz by, having a swimming lesson with Duncan Goodhew and running alongside Haile Gabrselassie.
If you need me to tell you who Haile Gebrselassie is, well let me put it this way: he is a running legend. With an accolade of titles to his name, including Olympic titles, a marathon world record in 2008, which he held for three years, and a talent for running and winning numerous distance races, he is a superhero to runners.
And it’s not just his talent on the racing track that makes him such a character. This Ethiopian running champion (who is arguably the greatest distance runner in history) uses his talent and fame to promote charitable causes. From the Hailemarathon held in Ethiopia to his support for the Righttoplay – a charity based in Ethopia that inspires children orphaned or victims of HIV or Aids through participation in sport, he puts his energy into his running and helping others.
And on Sunday 16 February 2014, I and a bunch of other journos/bloggers were invited by adidas to run alongside him through the London parks (this was prior to the announcement that he would be the pacer at the Virgin London Marathon 2014). Yep, that’s right, I ran alongside this world class athlete for 8k. I’m still pinching myself!
Not only was the sun shining but Haile himself was really approachable and chatted freely while questions were thrown at him. My particular favourite answer was from a question by Laura of Lazy Girl Running. When asked for tips on the London Marathon, he said run the last 5k fast! Ha, if only this could be the case. Of course, there were photo opportunities and it would be mad not to have your photo taken alongside a legend.
After the reasonably-paced run (which was a walk in the park for the great man himself), Haile went through a few stretches and talked essentially about his love of running. For him as for the rest of us there, it is a passion that we all share and his enthusiasm for the sport is infectious. It made sense when he said: “Running is life, Running is medicine”. Running does keep you fit both physically and mentally. It helps you to focus on your goals, relax, is brilliant discipline and, most of all, can be a kind of meditation (for me anyway).
Only this week research published suggested that physical exercise can help prevent the onset of dementia. I’m a little sceptical about the headline but as a runner and advocate of physical activity I seriously hope that there may be something to this claim. When I’m tired or feeling a bit grumpy, there’s nothing like a run to improve my mood . Talking of improving my mood, I was on cloud nine after this run with Haile.
One thing is for sure ; meeting and running with Haile Gebrselassie was the ultimate #energyboost and a real motivation for my running goals in 2014. Thank you to adidas for organising the event and allowing me to meet one of my heroes.