At home, and at work with Gebrselassie in Addis Ababa
April. 06 2011
The impressive career of Haile Gebrselassie takes quite a while to take in: two Olympic victories and four World Championship titles over 10,000m, another three World Indoor Championship wins over 3000m and even one at 1500m (!) as well as 27 World records and World bests, including the current World Marathon record of 2:03:59. What is striking about these achievements is that they are by no means the whole story.
What makes Gebrselassie so distinctive and such an outstanding personality in world sport is his entrepreneurial spirit, the intensity of his professional schedule, his personal warmth when he meets other people and his sense of social engagement – all this while simultaneously leading a successful career as a runner at the highest level for two decades.
After recovering from a knee injury which forced him to withdraw from the Tokyo Marathon, Gebrselassie is back in solid training for his next race, the Vienna City Marathon on 17 April where he’ll contest the Half Marathon in a unique chase race where he’ll attempt the catch the marathon field over the second half. Ever the fierce competitor, he’s eagerly looking forward to the challenge. “Feeling great, no problems with my knee anymore and eager to race again,” he recently said via Twitter.
But he’s got plenty other business to attend to as well.
Haile the businessman
The first thing you notice when you visit him in Addis Ababa is that Gebrselassie is a busy and successful businessman. Since 1995 he has invested earnings from his success on the track in establishing companies. Today he is at the head of a concern with 600 staff and is in the office every day. His mobile phone never stops ringing. His business interests include offices in Addis Ababa and other cities, a cinema and fitness centre in the capital, a hotel resort at Lake Awassa and the dealership for Hyundai cars in Ethiopia.
Family ahead of running and business
The World record holder’s working schedule is as tightly packed as you’d expect. A conversation in his office on the eighth floor of the company’s headquarters on Bole Road was interrupted several times by staff members who needed his signature on letters, documents and cheques. Business had to be attended to, even if visitors were present.
Apart from that he has a family life with his wife Alem, who also takes an active role in their joint business concerns, their three girls, Eden (14), Melat (12), and Batiy (10) and son Nathan (5), as well as coping with training for whatever happens to be his next race.
“Family always comes first for me, then running, then business,” is how he describes his priorities.