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  Friday, 10 August, 2001, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Me, my race and Haile
Haile Gebrselassie and BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce
Haile (l) greets our man Fordyce after his 800m run
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce in Edmonton

Running the 800m at the World Championships, in front of a packed stadium? This is the stuff of fantasy, surely?

Absolutely not. A special race has been put on for the world's media, and the BBC has decided to play its part.

The bit about the packed stadium might not be true. It's 11am and there are barely 200 inside. But that's not so far off the number who saw the proper 800m anyway.

Such is the response that there are 11 heats. People are taking this seriously. There are skinny men in running vests and near-pornographically short shorts everywhere you look.

"Last call for Heat Two," comes the announcement, and I step onto the track for my first ever two-lap race.


Tom? Is like Tom and Jerry!
Haile on meeting Sport Online's Tom Fordyce
A camera crew shuffles along the start line and zooms in on your face, which is displayed, stricken, on the giant screens at the end of the stadium.

"Representing Great Britain, in lane three, Toooom Fordyce!" booms the PA. There is a smattering applause from colleagues, which I greet with an embarrassed wave.

I'd always hoped I'd be Michael Johnson-cool in this scenario, eyes focused in a distant point, maybe fingering a good luck charm round my neck.

No such chance. I'm shaking so much I nearly false-start "On your marks," barks the starter. "Set" I wobble. "CRACK!"

My dreams of glory, inflated beyond belief by the build-up, last precisely 50 metres.

That's the time it takes for my rival from the Bulgarian media to hare off at a crazy pace, establishing an unbreakable lead before some of us have passed the starter.

Kipketer's record safe

I set out in pursuit of his cloud of dust, only slightly put off by the sight of myself labouring on the giant screens.

The bell goes with me in second place, that magical ting-a-ling that always draws a roar from the crowd and puts speed in the stride of every runner.

The Bulgarian is somewhere up ahead. Coe at his peak would struggle to catch him, I think, gasping. I'm wrong, but when the lungs are screaming you need every encouragement you can get.

I put my foot on the gas with 150m to go and am rewarded with a burst of acceleration that would shame a Citroen 2CV.

Completely unnecessarily, I dip on the line.

Second place, in a time of 2mins 16secs. Looking on the bright side, it's a personal best. Perhaps more accurately, it's a personal only.

Still, it's a mere 35 seconds off Wilson Kipketer's world record, and makes me the fastest of the Brits on display.

The boys from BBC Five Live come in 15 seconds back, which only proves the adage that the internet is moving faster than radio or TV.

Haile Gebrselassie poses for photographs afterwards with the media, who have abandoned their usual cynicism in favour of unadulterated fawning in front of the greatest distance runner of all time.

I brown-nose furiously, say hello and ask him to sign my race number.

Wilson Kipketer
Kipketer realises his record is safe from Fordyce
"Tom? Is like Tom and Jerry!" he grins, before disappearing back into the scrum of autograph hunters.

There are still important fantasies to be played out. We are given a bottle of Powerade and ushered onto the ramp which zigzags past waiting TV crews and reporters when the championships are in full swing.

Some athletes have dubbed it 'Mount Edmonton', others 'The Walk of Shame'.

It's the World's version of the Wembley Steps and it sure feels strange being on the other side of the barrier.

"We must remind you that dope-testing will be carried out post-race," says an official, with a wink.

Being a BBC employee, I'm not familiar with testing any drugs. But it sounds like a good idea - much better than the peeing in the bottle he offers me.

I pause at the exit from the stadium and look back. Delusion is taking a dangerous hold.

What if I could have just gone a bit quicker on the first lap - maybe hung on the Bulgarian's shoulder - kicked on that bit earlier...

Pity my grandchildren. By the time they hear about this, the story will have me dipping on the line to beat Haile in 1.40 flat.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sebastian Coe sings the praises of Fordyce
"Very good, very good indeed"
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