Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele will line up at the 2020 London Marathon on Sunday for a long-awaited clash between two of the all-time greats of long-distance running.
Kipchoge is the defending Olympic men’s marathon champion, world record holder, and the first person to run a marathon in under two hours.
But Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele is a three-time Olympic gold medallist, five-time world champion on the track, and the reigning 10,000m world record holder.
Just two weeks before Kipchoge’s historic sub two-hour marathon in Vienna, Bekele won the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:41, two seconds outside his rival’s world record set at the same race 12 months previously.
Now, they will go head-to-head in a special London Marathon race for elite athletes only due to Covid-19 restrictions, with Bekele’s former track rival and four-time.
Like Kipchoge, world record holder Brigid Kosgei is back to defend her title in the British capital.
Reigning marathon world champion Ruth Chepngetich and Olympic champion 5,000m ruuner Vivian Cheruiyot are two of the leading contenders in the women’s elite race.
For years, Kipchoge and Bekele battled on the track – with Kenenisa usually winning the critical races.
The Kenyan did win the world 5,000m title in 2003 as an 18-year-old before Hicham El Guerrouj beat them both in the Olympic final at Athens 2004.
Four years later, it was Bekele – Ethiopia’s successor to Haile Gebrselassie – who sprinted clear of Kipchoge in Beijing to complete a long-distance double in the Chinese capital.
Kipchoge soon moved up to the marathon as Bekele stuck with the track where he soon found himself behind Mo Farah in major global competitions.
The Ethiopian hero eventually made his switch to the road, but their clash at the 2016 London Marathon failed to produce the expected fireworks as Kipchoge won comfortably with Bekele back in third some three minutes adrift.
Bekele has worked hard to raise his level, and his performance in Berlin gave notice that he could be a genuine threat to Kipchoge’s unbeaten run of 10 marathons.
But there is little doubt Kipchoge remains the overwhelming favourite.
In April 2019, he produced an awesome front-running display to shake off the attentions of three Ethiopians and win his fourth London Marathon.
There could be an element of team tactics this time round with Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun, who chased Kipchoge home last year, and Shura Kitata among the Ethiopians in the field who have run inside 2:05. – Olympic Channel
Kipchoge and Bekele ready to set London ablaze