The world's fastest sprinter, Usain Bolt, and the world's fastest marathoner, Haile Gebrselassie, will both be racing in the streets of Manchester, England, on Sunday, May 17. Don't be too disappointed: they won't be racing each other.
Bolt, who happens to be a Manchester United supporter, will run in a 150m race on a specially constructed, four-lane, 225m Mondo track in the early evening, well after Gebrselassie has completed the BUPA Great Manchester Run 10-K that morning ahead of 33,000 recreational runners. Bolt will actually run twice: first in a heat and again one hour later --assuming he qualifies-- in a final.
"I am very excited to compete for my first time in Manchester, my first time in a 150m race, and my first time in a street race outside the stadium," said Bolt through a media release. "I love competing in the U.K.: it is like my second home as I usually stay in London during the European racing season. When I heard about the idea I thought it would be great fun and something new and exciting."
Bolt's race will be part of the Great CityGames Manchester, another effort by Great Run organizer Nova International to take athletics to the streets and increase the visibility of the sport and its top stars. Nova held a series of sprint races in conjuction with the BUPA Great North Run last September in Newcastle and deemed them a success. "Hopefully, this event will be the start of many more similar events all over the world and inspire kids to take up athletics," Bolt added.
In Beijing last August, Bolt was the premiere performer on the track, capturing gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relays, all in world record times, and instantly becoming Jamaica's most prominent sportsman. Standing 196cm (6'5"), Bolt only needs 40 steps to cover 100m, an incredible 2.5m (8'2") per stride. He towers a full 32cm (nearly 13 inches) over the diminutive Gebrselassie, making for a truly unique photo-op.
"Having the two fastest men on the planet competing on the streets of Manchester on the same day is an incredibly exciting prospect," said David Hart, communications director at Nova International. "In the past, by definition, track and field athletics has taken place in a stadium or an indoor arena. The feedback from Newcastle/Gateshead where we experimented with the 100 meter sprints told us that spectators were thrilled at being so close to world class athletes they normally can only see from a distance in a stadium environment. I'm sure in Manchester the atmosphere will be even more electric and remember not only Bolt will be competing but some top British and overseas sprinters."
While Bolt has yet to register a victory in Manchester, Gebrselassie won the 10-K back in 2005 in a then British all-comers record of 27:25 (since surpassed by Micah Kogo).
There is no word on whether he, like Bolt, supports Manchester United or a different club in the Barclays Premiership.