London Marathon

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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Eliud Kipchoge wins London Marathon in second-fastest time ever

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Eliud Kipchoge repeatedly motioned for his so-called challengers to share the work at the front of the London Marathon. None dared.

So the 34-year-old Kenyan cranked up the pace and smiled en route to the second-fastest marathon in history, padding his argument as the greatest of all time on Sunday.

Kipchoge clocked 2:02:37, trailing only his world record 2:01:39 set in Berlin on Sept. 16. It’s his record-extending 10th straight elite marathon win and record-breaking fourth title in London, routinely featuring the toughest fields of the spring marathon season.

“It feels strange to be considered the most successful elite man in racing,” Kipchoge said, according to race organizers. “It was a very tactical race as everyone was there, but I know how to win this race, and I was confident and didn’t feel it was in doubt at any point.”

Kipchoge ran away from Ethiopians Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun in the last two miles, beating them by 18 and 39 seconds, respectively. Four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah was fifth in what he called a disappointing 2:05:39.

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei became the youngest woman to win London in 2:18:20, upsetting countrywomen Vivian Cheruiyot (second, 2:20:14) and Mary Keitany (fifth, 2:20:58).

MORE: London Marathon Results

Kipchoge is inching closer to doubling the win streaks of history’s other legendary marathoners. Ethiopians Abebe Bikila and Haile Gebrselassie each won six straight, according to Tilastopaja.org. Bikila has one accolade that Kipchoge does not — back-to-back Olympic titles — which Kipchoge can rectify in Tokyo next year.

Kosgei, a 25-year-old mom, was second to Cheruiyot in London last year, then won October’s Chicago Marathon for her first major crown. On Sunday, she posted the fastest second half of a women’s marathon in history (66:42) to become the seventh-fastest woman in history.

Emily Sisson was sixth in 2:23:08, the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history.

“We wanted to run faster, ideally, but given the conditions and the way the race went out, I think that was a good performance,” Sisson told media, noting the relatively slow early pace and a windy second half. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Two-time U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle took 12th in 2:26:33, a personal best by 11 seconds, but a disappointing one.

“I felt rough from, like, 10K on, like my legs were just really achy today,” Huddle told LetsRun.com. “Sometimes you have bad days in the marathon.”

Sisson and Huddle are among a large group of U.S. Olympic hopefuls, also including Jordan HasayDes LindenAmy Cragg and, should she continue racing, Shalane Flanagan. The top three at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 are in line to make the Tokyo team.

In Sunday’s wheelchair divisions, American Daniel Romanchuk added his first London title to Chicago, New York City and Boston crowns in the last year. The 21-year-old pulled away from Swiss Marcel Hug in the last half-mile and won by four seconds in 1:33:38.

Swiss Manuela Schar earned her second London title in 1:44:09, distancing American Tatyana McFadden by 5:33.

London marked the final major marathon of the spring. The fall season begins in Berlin on Sept. 29.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results