Haile Gebrselassie’s running career may be over

(Runner's World) -- While Sunday’s Fukuoka Marathon gave us a new champion, Joseph Gitau of Kenya, whose 2:06:58 was a personal best by nearly 15 minutes, and added two more names, Mo Trafeh and Ryan Vail, to the list of sub-2:12 Americans, the race may best be remembered for adding to the mountain of evidence that Haile Gebrselassie’s status as a threat in major international marathons has ended.

Gitau is a product of the Japanese corporate running system, representing a company called JFE Steel. His roots in Japan are deep; he attended high school in Hiroshima. As the IAAF reports, he ran from 30-K to 35-K in 14:54 and from 35K- to 40-K in 14:41 to seal his victory over Hiroyuki Horibata of Japan, who clocked 2:08:24. Henryk Szost of Poland was third in 2:08:42.

Gebrselassie is a former world record holder with a best of 2:03:59 but his most recent marathon performance was a fourth-place 2:08:47 in February. As David Monti of Race Results Weekly pointed out yesterday, Gebrselassie’s last five marathons have consisted of dropping out three times, that 2:08 earlier this year and one withdrawal before race day.

Officially, the Ethiopian turns 40 in April, though there are suspicions he’s considerably older. He made a pre-race statement that he was capable of 2:05 or 2:06 in Fukuoka if the conditions were right, but perhaps it was his condition that wasn’t. He dropped out after 32-K on Sunday, and later tweeted, “I could not lift my left leg properly anymore and I had to stop. My training went well and I had no indication of this.” He added, “I felt good and easy during the race; the pace was fine. After 25-K, my left upper leg started slowly to cramp up.” Gebrselassie assured his followers, “I will check out the problem and run another marathon, since I feel in good shape.” Perhaps, but the dropouts and disappointments are coming in bunches now.

Martin Mathathi, a Kenyan with a 58:56 half-marathon best, hoped to run under 2:07 and contend for the Fukuoka crown in his marathon debut, but he was out of the race after 38-K, reportedly in part because his final long training run had not gone well and had caused a crisis of confidence.

Mo Trafeh, who ran with the leaders early at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January before dropping out, took seventh in Fukuoka in 2:11:41, with Ryan Vail just behind in 2:11:45. Vail then tweeted that he was “sore and tired, but headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for a much needed break.”

Three athletes coached in Oregon by Jerry Schumacher, all of whom had planned to do the November 4 New York City Marathon before its cancellation, made it to Fukuoka. Tim Nelson was 12th in 2:14:09, but his teammates Simon Bairu and Brent Vaughn did not finish. Vaughn had also dropped out of the Olympic Trials Marathon in his debut at the distance.