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Antrim Coast Half Marathon secures major coup as Olympic great Haile Gebrselassie confirmed in field

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Haile Gebrselassie, the double Olympic champion, will compete on Antrim Coast Half Marathon weekend

Haile Gebrselassie, the double Olympic champion, will compete on Antrim Coast Half Marathon weekend

Haile Gebrselassie, the double Olympic champion, will compete on Antrim Coast Half Marathon weekend

Double Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie is set to light up this year’s Antrim Coast Half Marathon.

The Ethiopian legend’s presence is a major coup for the world class event that has previously attracted the likes of Sir Mo Farah and World Half Marathon champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw.

Gebrselassie, who won gold in the 10,000m at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, will compete in the event’s one-mile street race on Saturday August 27, that proceeds the next day’s main race.

The 49-year-old has also scored four World Championship titles and has held every world record from 1500m to marathon at one stage in his storied career.

Race director James McIlroy – a former 800m specialist who represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games – is delighted that Gebreselassie will attend the fast-growing event that sweeps through Larne and along the Antrim coast.

He said: “We’re delighted that Haile has agreed to join us for our one-mile run. He is one of the most talented athletes of all-time, and this event gives everyone the opportunity to run alongside the great man.

“We’re also very excited about our elite race which has attracted several world class African athletes. Last year’s women’s winner Yalemzerf Yehualaw spread the word amongst Ethiopian runners, which led to us being inundated with requests.

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“The beautiful scenery of the Antrim coast combined with a fast course makes this one of the most appealing half marathons in the world. It’s growing every year and has become a truly global event.

“Despite that global feel, it has retained the race’s community spirit. The athletes enjoy this race more than most as it has a family feel to it. The locals will turn out in numbers to cheer the athletes on.”

James’ wife, and fellow race director, Ruth McIlroy agreed: “Everyone connected with the race is delighted that Haile wants to attend this year’s event. He will be running the first Antrim Coast Classic Street Mile on the Saturday evening, before Sunday’s main race. What an inspirational athlete to have running alongside the kids and adults.

“Haile will be joined in the one-mile race by British Olympian Jo Pavey, who is another inspirational figure.”

Gebrselassie will also lend his insight to the BBC commentary team, with the half marathon set to be broadcast live on the iPlayer.

The line-up for the elite race is set to be the strongest ever assembled in Ireland. The men’s race sees the first four finishers from the 2021 race return.

Jemal Yimer, the 25 year-old Ethiopian record holder will be the fastest in the race with a personal best of 58 mins 33 secs. He will be joined by fellow countryman Tesfahun Akalnew, and the man he beat into second place last year.

England’s Marc Scott and Scotland’s Callum Hawkins will be keen to break Sir Mo Farah’s British record of 59 mins 32 secs.

Yehualaw also returns, after setting was believed to be a new world record last year only for it to be scrubbed when it was discovered the course was 54 metres short.

With race organisers confident this year’s course is up to standard, Yehualaw will be joined by her training partner and fellow Ethiopian Tsehay Gemechu, winner of the prestigious Lisbon half marathon two years in a row.

Gete Alemayehu, who finished second at the Barcelona Half Marathon, will complete the trio of Ethiopians while Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkemoi will also be a contender for a podium place.

Ruth McIlroy said: “Since Yalemzerf’s run last added: “We easily could have had twice the elite level entries that we have.”

Entries are now open for both the Classic Street Mile, Kid’s mile run and Half Marathon via the website www.antrimcoasthalfmarathon.com.


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