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Haile Gebreselasie sets new World 25 k record, or did he?

How can a runner set a record for 25 km in a 20 km race?

2006-03-17

Andy Milroy a senior member of the Association of Road Running Statisticians has questioned the 25 kilometres road race record set by Haile Gebrselassie last Sunday in the Netherlands.At the Alphen 20K held on 12 Mar 2006, Haile Gebreselasie ran a 1:11:37 for 25 km, well under the previously fastest reported time of 1:12:45 set by Paul Kosgei (KEN) at the Berlin (GER) 25 km on 09 May 2004.
How can a runner set a record for 25 km in a 20 km  race? The 25 km "race" was started prior to the start of the 20 km race with a small group of pace makers plus  Gebreselasie covering the additional 5 km over a two loop course before joining the 20 km course. A narrow passage way allowed Gebreselasie to pass by the mass of runners awaiting the start of the  20 km race.  As Gebreselasie passed the start line for the 20 km race, the 20 km race was started. i.e., at the 5 km mark, Gebreselasie acquired a new set of pace makers.

Two sets of pacemaker 

Gebreselasie was paced. There is no question of that.  In this case, there were TWO sets of pace makers. The first set was entered in the same competition as Gebreselasie and started at the same time.
However, the second set of pace makers was NOT entered in the same competition as Gebreselasie and did NOT start at the same time. The bottom line is that Gebreselasie was paced by runners NOT entered in the same competition as Gebreselasie. This might seem a minor issue, insufficient to invalidate the mark as a record. However, it is both a very important issue and also  is a very dangerous precedent.

This strategy, if accepted, could be extended to provide a half marathon race in a marathon that would utilize the last half of the marathon course AND would be started just as the lead pack passed the starting line for the half marathon, thereby providing fresh pace makers for the second half of a marathon. This strategy alters entirely the basis upon which pacemakers operate in a race. A pace maker is  normally entered in the race and starts at the start. He/she is also a potential competitor, regardless of any proclamation that he/she is simply a pace maker. Such pace makers have gone on to win the competition that they were supposed to merely pace.

Illegal aid

A  pace maker under this new strategy  cannot win the competition since they did not start at the start line for the competition, i.e., Salim Kipsang (KEN) was NOT a competitor in the 25 km since he did not start at the start of the 25 km and did not run the full 25 km course. And yet, in this case, he clearly paced Gebreselasie for part of the 25 km race. How far he paced Gebreselasie is irrelevant, any illegal aid invalidates a potential record performance.

The only conclusion is that the 25 km race violates the rule on bona fide competition and marks from this "race" cannot  not be recognized as legitimate for world record purposes.

 
DAVID MARTIN 


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