LONDON (Reuters) – Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, the only men to travel the marathon in less than two hours and two minutes, will compete against each other at the classic distance at this year's London Marathon, the organizers said on Friday.
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder, crosses the finish line in an attempt to run a marathon in less than two hours in Vienna, Austria, on October 12, 2019. REUTERS / Lisi Niesner / File Photo
The Kenyan Kipchoge had already announced that he would defend his title, but the presence of the Ethiopian ex-racing star Bekele (37), who completed a breathtaking 2:01:41 run in Berlin last October, broke Kipchoge's world record by two seconds Missing it will drool the fans.
Also in the field for the race on April 26th will be Mosinet Geremew, Mule Wasihun and Shura Kitata, the Ethiopian trio, who finished second, third and fourth last year.
However, it is the showdown between the two men, each of whom is justifiably entitled to be the greatest long-distance runner in history, and which is expected to attract an enormous amount for the 40th edition of the race, which started in 1981 with a dead run.
Kipchoge, who was the first man in an unofficial race in Vienna to run a less than two-hour marathon in October, is aiming for a fifth record title in London.
He has won 11 of the 12 marathons he started, including the Rio 2016 Olympics, and also has a number of Olympic, World and Commonwealth medals on the track and in cross country.
Bekele has three Olympic and five World Cup gold medals over 10,000 and 5,000 meters, tracks where he still holds the world record, and an astonishing eleven cross-country World Cup gold medals.
After rising to the marathon in 2014, he struggled with injuries and his best days seemed to be behind him until he contested his amazing run in Berlin last year.
Not only was the time almost a minute faster than anyone other than Kipchoge, it was also about four minutes better than the one Bekele had produced on the same course since 2016 at 2:03:03.
"I'm looking forward to driving with Eliud again," said Bekele. “We've had a lot of great battles on the track, on the streets, and off the ground over the years.
"He is a special athlete, but I think my win in Berlin proved that I am still able to win the biggest races and in world class times."
Bekele said London was his favorite race and although the last seven world records have been set in Berlin, he believes that dealing directly with this year's event could set a first world record for men on the track in 18 years.
The likelihood of this is increased by the fact that both men, along with the vast majority of the elite field and probably thousands of club runners, will wear a version of the Nike Vaporfly shoe that contains foam and a mass of compressed shoes which has helped marathon and other course records to drop.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editor of Toby Davis