Kenenisa Bekele: Eliud’s record motivates me

Kenenisa Bekele

Ethiopia’s distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele trains in Addis Ababa on April 17, 2023 in readiness for 2023 London Marathon.

Photo credit: Pool | NN Running Team

What you need to know:

  • Last year, he finished fifth in  2:05:19 behind Kipruto (2:04:39). In an exclusive interview with Nation Sport, the two-time Olympics 5,000 metres and 10,000m champion admits that this year’s race features one of the strongest fields.

On Sunday, 2019 Berlin Marathon champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia will take on defending champion Amos Kipruto of Kenya in a potentially explosive 2023 London Marathon race.

Last year, he finished fifth in  2:05:19 behind Kipruto (2:04:39). In an exclusive interview with Nation Sport, the two-time Olympics 5,000 metres and 10,000m champion admits that this year’s race features one of the strongest fields. He talked to our writer Bernard Rotich.

Question: Having completed your training for the London Marathon, how have your preparations been so far?

My training has been good, but not perfect. I had minor injuries earlier on in my training programme, but I feel healthy and fit for Sunday’s race.

Where do you train specifically, and what does your day to day programme look like?

I train around Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. I do runs at altitude, and Entoto Forest Park in Addis Ababa is one good place for that. But I also do low altitude training around Sendafa , a small town located some 38 kilometres to the East of Addis Ababa. Of course, exercise training becomes an important part of my training programme ahead of races.

How does your diet look like when training for races? Do you have special food during that period?

Not any specific food. Most importantly, I like a variety of food. I eat a lot of vegetables, nuts, fruit, some meat, pasta, rice, milk and of course our national food injera which is high in nutrients. For me, just plain food is enough, not too much spices and oil.

Which was your last race and what can you say about your performance in it?

My last race was the 2022 London Marathon. I had hoped for more in the race, but I couldn’t achieve what I set out to. I was struggling healthwise, having suffered a double Covid-19 infection.

At the 2019 Berlin Marathon, you came close to breaking Eliud Kipchoge’s then world record in the marathon of 2:01:39 by two seconds, but Kipchoge further lowered that time. Is Kipchoge’s new world record of 2:01:09 within reach for you?

Actually, it is what motivates me. Of course I still hope it will happen one day.

When competing against Kenyans, do you come under pressure, or do they help you to push yourself to the limit?

Good competition always helps to motivate me to push myself the extra bit. We need each other to excel in athletics.

You have had a long and successful athletics career. What is your secret to longevity?

My talent is God-given. This is what God chose for me to do. I had dreams, and I still have many goals to achieve. That keeps me going.

How have you invested your earnings from athletics, and what aadvice can you give upcoming athletes who look up to you?

I built my own synthetic athletics track in Sululta, about 20km north of Addis Ababa. Initially, I built it for my track training. I needed a good soft track surface to avoid injury. Nowadays, almost all Ethiopian athletes train there, which supports athletics in Ethiopia. Next to it, I built a training center and guesthouse where athletes can stay. We need to help each other and build for the community.

What is your message to your fans ahead of Sunday’s race?

I’m very happy with all the support I get from all over the world. The crowds are usually really amazing in London. I really appreciate the support I get from my fans during my preparations. I see it, and it motivates me.

You belong to NN Running Team. How has your experience been so far?

For me, the medical and nutritional support of the team has made the difference. I have access to the best sports doctors, physios, nutritionists and products. I owe them a lot. It has been career extending, and they are the reason I am still chasing my dreams and goals.

What do you think of the 2023 London Marathon line-up? Do you feel pressure to deliver?

Of course in a World Marathon Major, you can only expect a top field of athletes. The competition is really strong this year, but I’m looking forward to getting the most out of myself.

Who are your training partners? What do you think of them?

I train with Leul Gebresilase who will also compete in London Marathon. Training together with other strong athletes motivates me to push the boundaries. I think Leul is strong. He finished second last year, but let’s see what will happen in this race.