Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele
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Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele set London Marathon duel of fastest men in history

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Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele will go head-to-head at the London Marathon on April 26, marking the first time in five years that the world’s top two ranked marathoners will toe the start line in the same 26.2-mile race.

The Kenyan Kipchoge, who set the world record of 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, and the Ethiopian Bekele, who clocked 2:01:41 in Berlin last September, are the only men to ever break 2:02 in a marathon. Kipchoge also clocked 1:59:40 at a non-record-eligible event in Vienna on Oct. 12 instead of racing a fall marathon.

Bekele’s addition to the London field was announced Thursday night, a month after Kipchoge was confirmed. It also includes the third- and fourth-fastest men in history — Ethiopians Birhanu Legese and Mosinet Geremew.

“I am looking forward to racing against Eliud once again,” Bekele said in a press release. “We have had many great battles over the years on the track, roads and cross-country. He is a special athlete who proved that again with his magnificent achievements last year.”

Kipchoge has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team. Bekele, the more accomplished track athlete with Olympic golds and world records at 5000m and 10,000m, has been a roller-coaster road runner.

Bekele owns two of the seven fastest marathons in history, recorded three years apart in Berlin. In between, he failed to finish two marathons and, in his last London start in 2018, clocked a pedestrian 2:08:53 for sixth place.

That was more than four minutes behind Kipchoge, who is undefeated in four London starts and has beaten by Bekele by at least 100 seconds in all four of their head-to-head marathons.

“I feel like my win in Berlin proved that I am still capable of winning the biggest races in the world and in world-class times,” Bekele said. “I am really looking forward to what I can do in London.”

London could be a preview of the Tokyo Olympics. Kipchoge is expected to headline the Kenyan team that may be named before the spring marathon season. Bekele was controversially left off Ethiopia’s team four years ago.

The London Marathon has historically been the world’s second-fastest record-eligible marathon behind Berlin. Kipchoge owns the course record of 2:02:37.

The last time the world’s top-ranked marathoners (on record-eligible courses) entered the same 26.2-mile race the 2015 London Marathon, pitting then-world-record holder Dennis Kimetto against Emmanuel Mutai. Kipchoge won.

The last time the world’s top-ranked marathoners (on any course) entered the same 26.2-mile race was the 2009 Berlin Marathon, pitting then-world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie against Duncan Kibet. Gebrselassie won.

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Dalilah Muhammad, Eliud Kipchoge named world athletes of the year

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Record-breakers Dalilah Muhammad and Eliud Kipchoge were named the World Athletics athletes of the year on Saturday.

Muhammad, who twice lowered the 400m hurdles world record last season, became the first athlete in her event to take the honor since Brit Sally Gunnell in 1993. And the first American woman to earn it from any event since Allyson Felix in 2012.

The Kenyan Kipchoge became the first repeat athlete of the year since Usain Bolt in 2012 and 2013. Kipchoge, who lowered the marathon world record by 78 seconds in 2018, became the first person to break two hours in a marathon on Oct. 12 in a non-record-eligible event.

The other female finalists were Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan, Kenyan marathoner Brigid Kosgei and Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas.

The other male finalists were Ugandan distance runner Joshua Cheptegei, American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks and sprinter Noah Lyles and Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm.

World Athletics is track and field’s international governing body, rebranded from IAAF this year.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge on his marathon bucket list, shoe technology debate

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