Kenenisa Bekele to face Eliud Kipchoge in London Marathon for the ages

• Three-time Olympic champion to take on world record holder
• Bekele not surprised Mo Farah is returning to the track

Kenenisa Bekele has agreed to race Eliud Kipchoge in a London Marathon for the ages in April – and said he is not surprised Mo Farah is swerving the race in favour of returning to the track.

Bekele, a three-time Olympic gold medallist who has won 17 world titles over cross-country, track and road, roared with laughter when asked what he thought of Farah’s decision to leave the marathon and then added: “I am not surprised. Of course if you see Mo Farah’s races in marathons, he’s struggling – it’s not easy to get good results over a marathon. You need experience. It’s a different course, a different racing mentality.

“But it is really hard for all of us. You need to learn how to run it and also the training is different. I think it’s harder, not only for Mo, but for all of us – even I struggled.”

However the Ethiopian, who ran the second fastest marathon time in history in Berlin in September, two seconds shy of Kipchoge’s official world record of 2hr 01min 39sec, said Farah is still good enough to win a medal in the 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m sure we’ll see Mo doing better things on the track. If he focuses and concentrates like before I’m sure he will be in the medals in the 10,000. I’ve no doubt about that.”

Bekele still holds the 5,000m and 10,000m world records, which were set in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and insisted he was capable of claiming Kipchoge’s marathon best even at the age of 37.

“My training is going well and I feel well,” he said.“Before last year I was struggling with injury. Everyone knows I’m a strong athlete from 15 years on the track. When we came to the marathon I’ve struggled maybe to achieve good results but of course this is because of injury, not a lack of training or my personality. I was a bit behind but my health came back and now I’m doing a lot better in the marathon.”

Bekele also admitted the sight of his great Kenyan rival running a sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna in October, albeit in an event that was not recognised by World Athletics, has spurred him on.

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“When he ran under two hours, and of course it is not recognised, but it made me very motivated,” he said. “If someone like me also gets this big chance we will do a similar thing or do better. I believe in myself – you need the opportunity of course but some athletes will do a similar thing.”

The pair have met four times over 26.2 miles, with Kipchoge winning all four races. However Bekele has the better head-to-head record across all distances and surfaces.

“I am looking forward to racing Eliud once again,” added Bekele. “We have had many great battles over the years on the track, roads and cross-country. My big dream is to break the world record and an amazing performance will happen at the London Marathon.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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