How old is Haile Gebrselassie?
The idea of age and running is often considered clear cut in the idea that “The older you get, the slower you become.” At first that seems like a completely reasonable claim to make, you could easily see how with age your running abilities could deteriorate and thus you get slower when you get older. Now here’s the kicker that tosses a wrench into this idea… Former world record holder in the Marathon, Haile Gebrselaissie.
According to his passport he is 38, but there is reason to believe he is actually older. The article I have linked to above provides some interesting evidence to the idea that he might actually be significantly older than he claims. I do not wish to state a case either way, instead I am much more intrigued by the implication of his age when it comes to how we define our true age limitations. As the article states, it is highly probable that he was over the age of 40 when he became the first man ever to run sub 2:04 in the marathon! Wait a minute… If we peak somewhere in our mid 20s and then with age our capabilities begin to deteriorate how is that possible? If Gebrselassie really isa few years older than his official age, then he has not done the impossible, but rather redefined the possible, which, of is why Gebrselassie’s real age matters.
Proof that Gebrselassie was over 40 when he set his marathon world record would require us to explain how it is possible for a 40-year-old man to run 26.2 miles faster than any younger man ever has. Haile claims that: “The more you age, the more you’re getting stronger.” This does not dispute the claim that you get slower and weaker with age, but it does redefine when it happens. Possibly the coolest part of this debate is that we current have, Haile Gebreselassie, as living proof that most runners start to slow down almost voluntarily, for psychological reasons, before they ever even have to slow down for physical ones. Perhaps in most runners the hunger weakens before the muscles do. Maybe they start to slow down when they do because they expect to. Either way you look at, it’s a very intriguing idea.