RT Q&A with Australian distance runner Dejen Gebreselassie


Personal bests to date

1000 Metres 2:38.36 Hobart (AUS) 29 JAN 2013
1500 Metres 4:00.13 Hobart (AUS) 24 MAR 2013
3000 Metres 8:26.50 Melbourne (AUS) 09 NOV 2017
5000 Metres 14:24.79 Melbourne (AUS) 23 NOV 2017
10,000 Metres 29:51.89 Melbourne (AUS) 14 DEC 2017
10 Kilometres 29:22 Hobart (AUS) 18 FEB 2018
12 Kilometres 35:57 Adelaide (AUS) 17 SEP 2017
Half Marathon 1:03:47 Valencia (ESP) 24 MAR 2018


How much did team manager Tim Crosbie and your other team mates help you out during the week leading into your race ?

Tim has helped me a lot. Being a team manager is not easy as he has to focus on all of us and advise us all with the same energy. I can say Tim’s encouragement and the beautiful piece of advice helped me to relax and focus on my rest and positive mind set during my sick days. I had great conversations with Tim all that week pre race and I delivered just how Tim expected me to run. He said you don’t have too much pressure on you as this is your first world half champs, we just want you to go out their and do your best, but most of all try to enjoy being out there competing with the best athletes in the world. My team mates advice was also beautiful and very encouraging.

I have learnt a lot from the king himself (Collis Birmingham) knowing what this legend has done on the track and roads, really inspired me to run well with him in the race… remember the Aussie record is (60:54) by Collis. That’s around (2:53) avg pace per km. He is an inspiration to me to run faster day by day.  With God’s will and my hard work I can achieve great things.

You were sick for a few days with flu like symptoms leading into the race, how did you stay positive?

Yes, I was sick with flu during that full week from Monday to the Race day (Sat). Whilst I had a very bad cough during those days, I still managed to do 2 runs a day until Saturday. I was staying focused and determined all the time. My friends, fans and support gave me faith in myself even when I was sick, so I thank them for that. I knew I had to do this for my country Australia and I was telling myself I am here for a reason and that is to do very well at world half no matter what has happened to me. I was always going to try my best and make Australia proud. My Faith has always made me strong and I’ve never lost any hope or strength because of that strong faith I have in God. I stayed motivated by listening to my team manager and friends advice that was basically, drinking lots of water and resting a lot.

Were you expecting to still be able to crack out a PB as you did?

Yes even though it was very hard to expect too much, I still thought sub 64:00 was going to happen even if I had to jog it or limp and finish. If I wasn’t sick I knew I could do something like 61:30 > 62:30 that day, but it wasn’t easy when your heart beats so fast going at 2:53 pace (60:50).  Having the flu really sucks, plus the conditions were very bad with 40/km winds making it tough all round.

I know my time is coming and I am chasing the big times down for any distance from 5000m to Marathon. I’m ready to continue putting in the hard work and I trust God’s timing for my success.

Lining up at your first meet at the highest level in running, what was going through your mind?

Lots of things were going through my mind. I could see all the best athletes in the world warming up and chatting to each other. I was so happy to see them around me, I even did a few strides with them. Some of these guys have 58min 59min half and sub 27min 10km and 2:04 marathon PBs. I was absolutely happy and had controlled focus in trying to do my best amongst them. I was going back to positive thoughts, like my strong race results in Australia with Liam Adams and all the other athletes. I kept repeating in my head, “I have got this.”

What were some of the key points during the race for you? Were there any stages that hurt more than others?

I knew I had to lock into a good pace early on and not drop too much.  The goal was to find a good group to sit on and share the pace together. There was some painful moments during the race at the 14km, it hurt  as my flu was really attacking me, my chest was beating pretty fast and I wasn’t able to breath well. With that said, I knew I had to pick up the pace and over take some guys to finish sub 64:00. I did just that over the last 4 to 5km, which was between 2:58 to last km 2:54 mins per km. I was in great shape and know I can run a 61-62 Half very soon, my training supports this. On this day, I did my very best and achieved a quality result under a tough situation.

What was the feeling coming into the finish line?

My feeling was so, so, good when I saw the finish line in the last 200m. Collis got me in the last 100m but it was great to finish and awesome to see my other Aussie mates on the finish line together.

How much has this motivated you to succeed even more at the top international level?

This Race has motivated me a lot for the next small races and big races just in terms of how hard the training needs to be and how smart I need to train. I need to stay injury free as much as possible. I’ve been lucky to have never been properly injured to date.

The world half marathon has opened up my eyes and mind to do even greater things in the near future so I’m pretty stoked. It’s a blessing and very exciting to be part of the Aussie team at world half. I will have to work hard and make another Aussie team.

Your training is some of the the toughest going around. Can you please outline a typical peak training week for the readers out there to get a gauge of what it takes to run at your level?

Yes, my training is very very tough. Some people think I over train but they don’t know that I enjoy the hard sessions and I truly believe those are the ones that are making me very strong and fast. So if it works for me I am not over training, they just need to try harder that’s all.

14 days before the world half I did sessions like this:

  • 5x 1 Mile 4:38 avg with the fastest one being 4:33 on a Gravel 800m loop.
  • Next session was 9 x 500m Track 1:18 average with 100m fast jog Rec
  • 6x 400m in 62- 63 avg 5x 800m Track 2:08 avg with 3mins ave 3.8km 11:20 avg
  • Fartlek on track 200m in 30s 31s 200m float 38s – 40s) 30min of 2min moderate 30s fast + 20min of 30sec fast 2min moderate total: 14km
  • Fartlek in 49min (3:31) avg and 19km progressive run in 58:56 (3:06) avg. This one made me think i would smash it at world half it was good indictor

Toughest session/s completed pre event? 

  • My teammate, Thomas Do Canto and I did this session: 4x 2min fast at around 2:45 to 3:00 and 1min Float at around 3:20 – 3:30 per km. This was on a Thursday and I was coughing a lot during this session due to my flu infection.
  • 1 week before the race I did track fartlek of 3.8km in 11:20 + 5x 200m in 28s average this was an awesome session and I knew I was running well.

Next big race on the cards? When will you hit up another marathon?

The Marathon has been in my mind everyday and always, it’s just that I need to make a strong decision and do the proper marathon specific training program to make it work. I’m still thinking whether or not to do the Gold Coast Half marathon for a fast time or to go for a very fast marathon on Gold Coast and go for that sub 2:10 and cash reward? Realistically, I would like to run anything between 2:12 and 2:13 for my good GC debut, that’s why I want to do the work first before I go out and run 2:20s. I don’t want a mid 2:20 time, so I need to prepare the best way for it. I’m definitely doing one marathon this year though. Perhaps, I’ll do the Gold Coast half then the Fukuoka Marathon early December, but I do not want to miss Zatopek as I want to run a very fast 10,000m this year. I’ll make these decisions very soon and do the training to run the PB’s I know I’m capable of.


Cover photo courtesy of Bjorn Paree

Dejen Gebreselassie: A journey from refugee to the green and gold