BERLIN // Haile Gebrselassie lost the race against time yesterday with his world record shattered by Patrick Makau, and his great career in doubt less than a year before the London Olympics.
His lungs seizing up and struggling for air after more than 27 kilometres (17 miles) of the Berlin Marathon, Gebrselassie, 38, finally quit shortly after 35km.
By then, Makau was more than two minutes ahead - on his own and on the way to the German capital's landmark Brandenburg Gate and a new world record to his name.
"I was hoping to gain a lot of experience but not to win," Makau said after slashing more than half a second off Gebrselassie's old mark.
Makau pulled away after 27km and finished in 2hrs 3mins 38secs.
Gebrselassie, whose previous record stood at 2:03.59, pulled up after Makau's breakaway and seemed on the verge of giving up when he stopped running and bent over, holding his chest. After a short rest, he resumed the race.
For several kilometres he was second, about two minutes behind Makau, but finally gave up.
"He was still feeling good at 25k but then his lungs started tightening up, he could not breath, we don't know why," Jos Hermens, his agent, said.
Gebrselassie suffers from asthma and is allowed to take medicine, but had not taken any because he had not had any problems for months, Hermens said.
"Maybe this was a mistake, but he felt fine before, his preparation was good."
Gebrselassie had won four successive Berlin Marathons from 2006 and set his world record in 2008.
Makau also won last year's event in driving rain. Yesterday's race, on Berlin's flat course, took place in sunny, mild conditions.
The 26-year-old Makau brandished a Kenyan flag after coming through the Brandenburg Gate and crossing the finish line.
"Today, maybe a new generation is starting in marathon," he said.
"My body was not good in the morning but I had no problems in the race, I did everything well."
By 35km, Makau was alone in front. He and Gebrselassie had stayed together until 27km and were easily on world-record pace from the start.
Gebrselassie, 38, pulled out of the New York City Marathon in November with a knee injury and retired immediately after the race. But he changed his mind eight days later.
He injured both knees when he fell during a training run in the rugged countryside of his homeland but came back to win a half-marathon in April in Vienna, Austria. He also won the 10,000m Great Manchester Run in May.
Gebrselassie's main objective in Berlin was to run a good time and qualify for Ethiopia's Olympic team.
Hermens said Gebrselassie had no plans to retire again, but that he might have problems qualifying for the London Olympics.
"No, no, he is in a much better mood now than in New York, he did not suffer a lot. But qualifying may be a problem now, we don't really know where to get it," Hermens said.
Stephen Kwelio Chemplany, a pacemaker from Kenya, finished second in 2:07.55, and another Kenyan, Edwin Kimaiyo, was third in 2:09.50.
Florence Kiplagat of Kenya won the women's race in 2:19.44, ahead of Irina Mikitenko of Germany and Paula Radcliffe, Britain's world-record holder, who was making her Berlin debut.