This week we are taking you back to the Sydney Summer Olympics in 2000 to witness one of the greatest Olympic 10,000 meter races in history! In my younger years I idolized the Ethiopian and Kenyan runners and to have an opportunity to watch them bring their best from both countries in a head to head grudge match was a moment in running history I will never forget. The stage was set for an epic race between the 2 countries that had dominate this event in recent memory and not to mention their respective champions. Paul Tergat from Kenya and Haile Gebrselassie toed the line each posed to make history. Haile Gebrselassie had not lost any 10,000 race in over 7 years at this point and with one more would solidify his place among the greatest of all time! Paul Tergat having won the world XC crown 5 years in a row, but had stood on the podium countless times in the 10,000 but always to watch Haile receive the gold and listen to the Ethiopian national anthem instead of his Kenya anthem. Would this be the day when Tergat would finally slay the King of the 10,000 meters?
Early on in the race we saw the field settle into a comfortable pace with only tactical testing moves occurring. With the quality of runners in this race everyone knew no one even Tergat or Gebrselassie could get away on their own. Knowing full well that 25 laps around this track was not going to be won in the early laps we saw very little testing from the field. As the race reached the last 1/4 of the race the lead pack was well defined. It was all 3 Kenyans, 2 Ethiopians, and 1 Moroccan runner. This pack had pulled away from the rest of the field and now the pace had begun to quicken. Paul Tergat was brave and bold leading much of the race but now with about 1 mile to go his teammate takes the lead and really starts to push the pace with the hope of breaking Haile. The Kenyans knew that they had to break him early if not in a final sprint it was almost impossible to beat him! As much as the Kenyans were trying to break Haile the laps went through and right there in second was Haile with Tergat was in 3rd with each man waiting on the other not wanting to make the first move. We all knew them move was coming but by who?
With 400 meters to go Haile's teammates move right next to him putting Tergat in a difficult position to pass. Those that don't think running is a team sport don't know our sport. with 300 meters to go knew he had to go and started to go wide around the Ethiopians and just at the 200 meters to go point he darts into the lead and manages to get a meter or 2 jump on Haile. Tergat was going to make that count and runs well around the last curve into the final straightway still leading and even with Haile chasing at full speed he seems to be holding him! Could this be his day finally? Tergat holding off the king of 10,000 but then in fashion we were all used to seeing from the Great Haile Gebrselassie he surged again finding the almost impossible other gear and just before the finish just out leans Tergat to win once again! After 10,000 meters, 6.2 miles, 25 laps it came down to the last few meters and the margin of victory was 0.09 seconds. Believe it or not that margin of victory was closer than the 100 meters race was won at that very same Olympics. These are the moments that define our sport and looking back at them is one way to find motivation for the moments each of us will create in our running lives! Below is a video of that epic final minutes of this race!
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Coach Rojas has 11 combined years of coaching experience at various levels including coaching a high school D1 State finalist team and 3 years in a row of a top 10 state ranking. He is passionate of the sport of running and loves to see new runners take up the sport! He wants to share a lifetime of running experience to all