By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
Haile Gebreselassie added another chapter to his career by playing host to a gathering of athletics luminaries, including his close friend and greatest rival Paul Tergat, to mark the opening of his resort hotel on the shores of Lake Hawassa about four hours’ drive south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa over the weekend (see http://www.haileresort.com).
Others attending the festivities were Ethiopian Olympic medallists Tirunesh Dibaba and her husband Sileshi Sihine, AIMS measurement chief Hugh Jones, and New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.
The centerpiece of the weekend was The Every One Race in Hawassa, a full morning of road races starting outside the doors of his luxurious hotel that bears the name “Haile Resort” on Sunday featuring a half-marathon, two 7-k men’s and women’s elite, kids races and a mass participation 7-K. Runners came from near and far for the races including Kati Bakirtzi, a New York Road Runners member who made the trip with her sister from Athens just for the races.
“It is absolutely special being here,” Bakirtzi told the New York Road Runners’ Richard Finn who was also in attendance. “Knowing where Haile came from and what he has made himself into, is really special.”
The hotel, which took three years and millions to build, features a panoramic entrance overlooking Lake Hawassa, a pool, spas for both men and women (the one for women bearing the name of one of Gebrselassie’s daughters Eden) and a full fitness room. Finishing touches are still being applied, and plans include to add tennis courts and an outdoor track.
Gebrselassie was the proud host throughout the weekend, shaking hands, posing for pictures (always his with famous smile) and looking after all of the last minute details.
“Words can’t express my awe of Haile,” said Wittenberg who skipped the London Marathon but made time to get to the opening. “The man is relentless, cheerful and patient with fans and friends, while at the same drive to succeed and impatient with any effort less than the best.”
Gebrselassie had a simple measuring stick for success on the weekend.
“If people are happy that’s the most important thing I need to hear,” said Gebrselassie, who has not yet announced where he will run his next marathon.