Kipchoge v Bekele: Where London Marathon will be won

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line to win the elite men's race of the 2019 London Marathon in central London on April 28, 2019.

Photo credit: Ben Stansall | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The men’s marathon will certainly keep athletics fanatics glued to their seats when two of the greatest in distance running go head to head
  • Kipchoge and Bekele first faced-off 17 years ago at Oslo’s Bislett games where Bekele snatched the win in 12:52.26
  • At the 2018 London Marathon - the stage of next month’s showdown - Kipchoge sealed his hat-trick of victories in the UK capital dropping Bekele along the way to win yet another marathon



It's only a week to another blockbuster London marathon and athletics fans from around the world will be waiting with bated breath to watch the best distance athletes go for the win in the most unique race in recent years.

In a change from the usual road course, athletes will compete over 19 laps of a 2.15km course around St James’s Park with a traditional finish on The Mall.

The men’s marathon will certainly keep athletics fanatics glued to their seats when two of the greatest in distance running go head to head.

Eliud Kipchoge - the world record holder and fastest in history - will be looking to defend his title from Kenenisa Bekele who has a repertoire of other records under his belt.

Since the emergence of Bekele and Kipchoge in road running, one thought has dominated the minds of athletics fans, who is the greatest between the Ethiopian phenomenon and the empyrean Kenyan?

Track rivalry

Kipchoge and Bekele first faced-off 17 years ago at Oslo’s Bislett games where Bekele snatched the win in 12:52.26. Kipchoge finished third in a thrilling sprint to the finish line to claim the world junior record for the 5,000m.

Later that summer at the 2003 IAAF World Championships, Kipchoge caused a stunning upset. On paper, Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj had entered the race with bigger reputations than the young Kipchoge. However, on the home straight, Kipchoge outsmarted his opponents with his superior kick to win in a new championship record time of 12:52.79.

Ethiopian long distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele trains in Addis Ababa ahead of the London Marathon set for October 4, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool | Global Sports Communication

One year later, Kipchoge would again face off with familiar foes at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In the final 100m, it became evident that Kipchoge wasn’t going to add an Olympic title to his accolades. His head bobbing from side to side, he ran out of steam to concede defeat to El Guerrouj while Bekele finished second.

Kipchoge and Bekele would renew their rivalry in 2006, facing each other five times. This time, Bekele stamped his authority to beat the Kenyan in all of those contests.

A final showdown in an Olympic event happened in Beijing 2008. In the 5,000m final, Kipchoge failed to respond to a searing surge in speed by Bekele, leaving the Ethiopian to storm to gold.

Bekele grabbed the title at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, to deny Kipchoge the chance of a repeat performance from six years earlier in Paris. The following month, they met again in Greece over 3,000m and Bekele would prevail once again.

In 2011, Kipchoge stepped up to try out the 10,000m in Brussels. Bekele meanwhile, would attempt to finish his first race in almost two years but still crushed his opponents to win the race.

After a string of disappointing results, Kipchoge finally broke his duck at the Doha Diamond League 3,000m. He was nine seconds faster than Bekele despite finishing second.

When the two great champions met for the final time on track in Paris, they had a race to forget. Kipchoge sauntered home in the eighth position, one place above Bekele.

Cross Country

At the 2004 World Cross Country Championships in Brussels, Bekele displayed an effortless performance despite blustery and rainy conditions to win the men’s 12km. Kipchoge fell out of contention as the race wore on and finished fourth.

In the subsequent World Cross-Country Championships held in Saint-Etienne, Kipchoge managed to run shoulder-to-shoulder with Bekele for half an hour before the Ethiopian blasted off to win the race at a canter.

Marathon

After successful integration into marathon running for the two men, where both Kipchoge and Bekele ran course records in Hamburg and Paris respectively, the stage was set for a much-anticipated tussle in Chicago in 2014. This time, however, the failures of previous contests didn’t haunt Kipchoge as he scorched Bekele in the final seven kilometers to win in 2:04:11.

Ethiopian long distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele stretches after training in Addis Ababa ahead of the London Marathon set for October 4, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool | Global Sports Communication

Bekele tried to avenge the defeat when they met in London two years later. After 30km of hard running, Kipchoge dropped his adversary to win his second consecutive London marathon.

Still reeling from his failed attempt at breaking the two-hour marathon barrier in Monza at an event dubbed ‘Breaking2’, Kipchoge sailed to another win in Berlin. Bekele offered no resistance as he bowed out of the race before reaching the finish line.

At the 2018 London Marathon - the stage of next month’s showdown - Kipchoge sealed his hat-trick of victories in the UK capital dropping Bekele along the way to win yet another marathon.

Personal Bests

Distance    Bekele    Kipchoge
3,000m      7:25.79    7:27.66
5,000m      12:37.35  12:46.53
10,000m    26:17.53  26:49.02
Half-Marathon 60:09  59:25
Marathon  2:01:41     2:01:39

Bekele absolutely dominated Kipchoge on the track. In 14 meetings, Kipchoge only managed to win three times while Bekele won the rest. This is reflected in their personal best times on the track, where Bekele has clocked faster times.

Kipchoge couldn’t avoid defeat either when they faced off in the cross country, twice losing to his Ethiopian nemesis.

Results turned for the better for Kipchoge when they crossed over to the marathon where he has convincingly won all four of their direct contests.

Furthermore, Kipchoge has only lost one race in his marathon career endorsing his credentials as one of the all-time greats over the distance.

Eliud Kipchoge celebrates with his pacemakers, friends and supporters after crossing finish line to break the historic two-hour barrier for a marathon during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria on October 12, 2019.

Photo credit: Pool | INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Bekele came close to breaking the marathon world record last year in Berlin. He missed the record by only two seconds despite his preparations being hampered by a litany of injuries.

Since that failed world record attempt by Bekele, Kipchoge became the first man to run the full marathon distance in under two hours.

Next month’s showdown will most certainly set London alight. While the chances of another record-shattering run are slim, it still promises to be a cracker.

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