Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele is entered in the Dubai Marathon on Jan. 20 and the London Marathon on April 23, in what appear to be his next two bids to break the 26.2-mile world record.
The London field is deeper, also including Rio Olympic marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia and 2015 New York City Marathon winner Stanley Biwott of Kenya.
Bekele, 34, padded his argument as the greatest runner of all time when he ran the second-fastest marathon ever, 2:03:03, to win Berlin on Sept. 25. He missed Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s record by six seconds.
“It was fantastic for me to get a personal best, but I’m still disappointed to have missed out on the world record,” Bekele said in a media statement Sunday. “I knew I had trained well and I knew what my strengths were. The Berlin race was fantastic, but I could see that I still had to make a couple of changes in my training.”
Bekele racked up world records and Olympic and world titles in the 5000m and 10,000m from 2004 to 2009. He had done little of note since, debuted in the marathon in 2014 and was controversially left off Ethiopia’s Olympic team for Rio.
Bekele’s resurgence came four months ago in Berlin, known as the world’s fastest record-eligible course, and now he goes into 2017 as one of the world’s top two marathoners.
The other is Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, who is not expected to run a record-eligible spring marathon as he is part of Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon project.
If Bekele breaks the marathon world record, he becomes unquestionably the greatest distance runner of all time (he arguably already is), which would beg the debate over the greatest runner of all time, with his chief rival in that conversation being Usain Bolt.
Bekele’s best shot at the world record this year may come in Dubai next week.
Dubai and London have similar amounts of the fastest marathon times ever, despite Dubai’s disadvantage of not being a World Marathon Major that attracts more of the world’s fastest runners.
World record: 2:02:57 (Kimetto, Berlin 2014)
London Marathon course record: 2:03:05 (Kipchoge, 2016)
Dubai Marathon course record: 2:04:23 (Ayele Abshero, 2012)
If Bekele runs the Berlin Marathon again in September, that would give him the greatest chance of breaking the world record. Berlin appears unlikely if Bekele races at the world track and field championships in August, which he said he will do if he is selected by the Ethiopian federation, according to the IAAF.
Bekele attempted the Dubai-London double in 2015. He dropped out of Dubai around the 19-mile mark due to injury and withdrew before the London Marathon due to an Achilles tendon injury. Bekele wouldn’t run another marathon until London the following year.
The only marathon star whose spring plans haven’t been announced is Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, the only person to break 2:04 three times.Follow @nzaccardi