Regina's Bairu nixing marathon until 2011
Somewhere around the 33rd kilometre Sunday, Simon Bairu's body began to betray him.
His head started spinning, his vision went blurry. Four kilometres later, his legs gave way and he went down in a heap, his marathon debut done, just four kilometres from the finish line.
The talented 27-year-old from Regina, touted as the Canadian most likely to eclipse the 35-year-old national marathon record, dropped out of Sunday's New York City marathon after he "completely ran out of gas."
Now he'll put his feet up on a beach in Hawaii for a few days of rest before he turns his attention to his immediate running plans.
"One thing is for sure though, I won't be doing another marathon until at least fall 2011," Bairu told The Canadian Press in an email Tuesday.
Bairu stuck close to the leaders through most of Sunday's race, which snaked 42.195 kilometres through New York's five boroughs, but realized around 27 kilometres in that the pace had significantly picked up.
"The pace was starting to get down into the 4:20s [per mile] range and so I decided to back off and try to pick guys off later on," Bairu said.
Instead it was paramedics picking Bairu off the pavement. When he collapsed like a rag doll, a spectator called 9-1-1 and he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital.
"My head was spinning and my legs were twitching uncontrollably," said Bairu, who believes he might not have consumed enough carbohydrates during the race.
Gebrselassie also pulls out
The Canadian was in good company. Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder, limped off the course with knee pain around the 25th kilometre and immediately announced he was retiring.
Bairu has captured seven Canadian cross-country championships and two NCAA cross-country titles with the University of Wisconsin. He finished 13th last year at the world cross-country championships and in May shattered the Canadian 10,000-metre record.
He's had his sights set on the marathon for a while, and is gunning for the qualifying standard in the event for the 2012 London Olympics.
He's also targeting the Canadian record, set in 1975 by Jerome Drayton. Only a handful of runners have come close to topping the mark, and Bairu is considered the favourite to etch his name in the history books. He didn't expect to do it in New York where the hilly, winding course doesn't favour fast times.
Still, Bairu couldn't have predicted such a letdown.
"I was disappointed, not because I wasn't running as well as I had hoped but because I had dropped out," he said. "I hate not finishing but there wasn't really anything I could do about it."
Nothing except chalk it up to a learning experience.
"The one thing I've learned over my career is that sometimes you just got to be patient, when things don't work out there is usually a valuable lesson in there somewhere," he said. "I'm confident that this experience will help me in the long run."
Some 1,200 runners out of the 37,000 entrants didn't finish the New York City marathon.