VIENNA - Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie beat Britain’s Paula Radcliffe in a half-marathon challenge at the Vienna city marathon on Sunday, with four months to go before the London Olympic event.
The Ethiopian two-time 10,000m Olympic gold medallist, taking part in his second Vienna race, finished the 21.1 kilometres (13.1 miles) in 1hr 00min 52sec, failing to better his 2011 result of 1hr 00min 18sec.
Women’s marathon world-record holder Radcliffe finished in 1hr 12:03.
The 38-year-old had started with a 7min 52sec lead on Gebrselassie — corresponding to the difference between their best half-marathon times — but the Ethiopian, also 38, eventually overtook her in the 16th kilometre after a long chase.
“I just said to her: ‘Paula, hurry up!’,” the ever-smiling Gebrselassie said after the race.
“She was not so fantastic today, I thought she would keep it up until the last kilometres… but it was an early catch.
“The race was good, it was a little bit windy… but the atmosphere is fantastic, to run here is wonderful,” he added.
An apologetic Radcliffe meanwhile blamed a recent illness for what she saw as a poor result.
“It didn’t go well for me, I already didn’t feel well after the sixth or seventh kilometre but… I really wanted to finish, even though it wasn’t such a good time,” she said in German, which she studied at university.
“I hoped Haile would overtake me in the 20th, or the 19th kilometre but it was earlier than that.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t give more today.”
Radcliffe said she was still on antibiotics after a bout of bronchitis in recent weeks, “but that should maybe take off one minute, not two or three.”
Her best half-marathon time is 1:06:47.
“It was supposed to be a bit of a test before I started marathon training (ahead of the Olympics), but with this illness, it wasn’t a real test, it didn’t go well.”
“The legs were just really really heavy, my breathing was calm, there was no problem there but the legs just wouldn’t go anymore,” she said with a laugh.
Radcliffe, who has battled injuries in recent years, will be looking to win her first Olympic medal at home this summer, after failing to finish in the 2004 Games in Athens and finishing 23rd in Beijing in 2008.
Gebrselassie, who turns 39 in two days, will not take part in the London Olympics but said he was not ready to hang up his running shoes yet.
“Running is not something you can stop easily… for the moment, it’s just 30-35 kilometres a day. I will keep it up because that’s my life.
“I’m fit, I’m ok. I’m not that far from last year: I ran today maybe a little bit slower.”
Next, he will take part in the 10-kilometre runs in Manchester and Hengelo, Netherlands, “maybe my last 10,000 metre.”
Winner of the 29th Vienna city marathon was the Kenyan Henry Sugut, who had already won the 2010 edition, with a new local record of 2:06:58.
Close to 36,000 runners from over 110 nations, took part in the Vienna race this year, according to organisers.