set the marathon world record of two hours 3:59 mins in Berlin in 2008
BERLIN — World record holder Haile Gebrselassie has said his time in Sunday's Berlin marathon is more important to him than victory as part of his bid to win gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Having set the marathon world record of two hours 3:59 mins in the German capital in 2008, the 38-year-old Ethiopian is back in Berlin to attempt to lower his own mark and win the race for a fifth time.
On the track, Gebrselassie won Olympic 10,000m gold at both the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney games, but the road-race legend wants to add the Olympic marathon title and Berlin is now a stepping stone to London 2012.
"For me here, it's not just the winning, it's the time, because I want to qualify for the London Olympics," said Gebrselassie
"Time is the priority as I want a place on the (Ethiopian) Olympic team.
"I feel pressure from some of the younger guys coming up at home and if I don't run a good time here, I might not be able to run in London.
"I have to run as fast as I can, because I don't know what can happen.
"If I run 2:05 here, maybe someone will run 2:04, I have to make sure I am at least in the top three here.
"The marathon medal is very special for people in Ethiopia, when you come back from an Olympics with a 10,000m gold medal, people aren't so impressed as a marathon medal -- that's number one."
Gebrselassie's biggest threat here is Kenya's Patrick Makau, who won last year's race in cold, wet conditions in a time of two hours 6:08mins, but the fair weather forecasted for Sunday suits the defending champion.
"I am not under pressure, I am running with a champion, he's the one people are focusing on and this is a good chance to get some experience," said Makau.
"I am happy the weather will be warmer on Sunday than last year, I am not used to running in rain."
Gebrselassie's return to Berlin has been gratefully received by organisers as he temporarily retired in November 2010 after his knee gave out during the New York marathon and in a dejected state, he called time on his career.
"I spoke to a few supporters and family and I decided I wanted to come back and run," explained the Ethiopian, who returned to running in April when he won the Vienna half marathon and later the Great Manchester Run.
"I didn't plan to retire after New York and things got complicated for me, I'll never actually stop running, but I may stop competing."