LONG-DISTANCE running legend Haile Gebrselassie was full of praise for the Manchester public ahesad of the BUPA Great Manchester Run and Powerade CityGames.
The 39-year-old Ethiopian, who failed to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games, is running the 10k at the event in Manchester this weekend.
Gebrselassie, who beat Paula Radcliffe in a one-off head-to-head half marathon in Vienna last month, is looking forward to racing in front of a passionate crowd – setting the standard for the Games.
“When you come to Manchester, because of the crowd and because of the organisation, you have to have something good – it’s big news if you win here,” said the former world record-holder.
“When I come here, I know about the crowd, they’re wonderful here. Believe me, the Olympics are going to be something very special because it’s London.
“I think home advantage is very important for the athletes because it’s their own land and their own crowd. I think it’s a great chance for Britain to make athletics even bigger.
“Here in England, athletics is so big. I say to the people of Manchester, if you’re thinking about participating in the Olympics, don’t miss a chance in London.”
Gebrselassie is philosophical about not making London, but is using the CityGames in Manchester as a gauge to see where his long and illustrious career is going.
He said: “This time I didn’t make it because I was too ambitious even though I did put in all of my effort and I did put in all of the work. The ones who have this chance, I say good luck to them.
“After so many years competing, I want to see how fast I can run. In terms of my career, after my next couple of events, I’ll take a look again.
“It’s a 10k run here but it’s not one that can be run easily. It’s going to be tough. But I enjoy these events as much as I enjoy the marathons.”
Meanwhile, Patrick Makau, who took away the Marathon world record from Gebrselassie, is looking to use the Powerade CityGames as good preparation for his summer schedule.
He said: “Manchester is a very good city.
“My preparations have been good. I don’t have any injuries or problems so it’s gone very well.
“Weather conditions are good here for Marathon running - not too hot or too cold and no wind either.
“It’s good to be able to do a shorter event. I’m looking to improve my time over the shorter distance and it is good preparation for me to do that here. I’m expecting to run very well.”