In a major boost to athletics in Australia, the man regarded as the greatest distance runner of all time, Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie will take on our own number one, Craig Mottram on the streets of Melbourne this November.
The inaugural Great Australian Run will also provide the weekend warrior with the chance to run with the world’s best, on a fantastic and unique street circuit through the streets of Melbourne – starting and finishing on the Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park.
The Great Australian Run is part of the world’s biggest mass participation running programme and will make its Southern Hemisphere debut in Australia’s sporting capital on Sunday 30 November, 2008. It is expected that up to 15,000 participants will take part.
And best of all, everyone has the chance to toe the start line with the world’s elite. The Great Australian Run provides an unprecedented opportunity to run on the same course at the same times as the current world marathon record holder, multiple world and Olympic champion, Haile Gebrselassie, as well as Australia’s best distance runners, Craig Mottram and Benita Johnson.
Gebrselassie will run for Ethiopia over 10,000m in Beijing, the event in which he has already collected Olympic gold in Atlanta and Sydney. Mottram will race over 5,000m in Beijing before returning to Australia for the event.
“I have wonderful memories back to 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. It was the best race ever I’ve run in my athletics career,” Gebrselassie said from his home in Addis Ababa.
“The people of Australia, they love to watch sport, especially athletics. Melbourne is a big town, a big city and I’ll love to compete there.”
A great historian of the sport, Gebrselassie was quick to mention the link between Ethiopian athletics and Melbourne, as the 1956 Olympic Games witnessed the first athletes from his country to participate in Olympic competition, although it wasn’t until Abebe Bikila famously ran barefoot to win the marathon in Tokyo that they claimed their first gold medal.
“One thing I want to tell you about Melbourne – all the Ethiopians are not forgetting Melbourne 1956 when the first Ethiopians participated in the Olympic Games. I will love to take part there.”
“Australia has many big long distance runners like Ron Clarke, Robert de Castella, Steve Moneghetti and now this fantastic runner Craig Mottram. It is a rich history in Australia of long distance runners,” he said.
Craig Mottram encouraged the Australian fun running community to take up the once in a lifetime opportunity saying, “I know from experience that the Great Runs put on a huge show and a great event, and I hope that joggers of all levels will get behind this one in Melbourne.”
“What other sport do you get to line up against the best athlete in the world? You can’t play golf against Tiger Woods or tennis against Roger Federer but on 30 November we can run against the great Gebrselassie right here in our back yard.”
The Great Australian Run is part of the Great Run Series, a programme of televised mass participation runs organised by Nova International Limited, with today’s announcement over a great Australian barbeque breakfast a welcome boost for athletics.
Brendan Foster, Olympic and Commonwealth medallist at 10,000 metres, BBC athletics commentator and founder of Nova said, “I was so inspired by the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne – the massive crowds with the whole sporting spirit of the city on display - that we decided then and there that the next destination for the Great Run was Melbourne.”
“It’s taken us over two years, but this November we will achieve that goal. To kick off with Haile Gebrselassie, the greatest distance runner the world has ever seen, a man who has set 25 world records, against Australia’s best in Craig Mottram is the best possible introduction.”
The Great Australian Run will take place over a 15 kilometre route, starting and finishing in Albert Park and taking in Melbourne landmarks such as the Yarra River, Flinders Street Station, the Tan and St Kilda Road.
Entries are now open, via www.greataustralianrun.com.au