Ethiopia’s distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie completed his whistle-stop tour of Kenya’s North Rift on Saturday saying he eagerly awaits the battle of the titans at the London Marathon in April.
But the former world marathon record holder remained non-committal on whom he thinks would win the battle between the world’s two fastest marathon runners — Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele and Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge — on the streets of London on April 26.
Kipchoge, who became the first man to run the marathon in under two hours last October, holds the world marathon record with a time on two hours, one minute and 39 seconds, which he clocked at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.
Bekele’s time is just two seconds slower, also clocked at the Berlin Marathon last year. Interestingly, both Bekele and Kipchoge, along with Gebrselassie, who has since retired, are managed by Netherlands-based Global Sports Communications.
“Kenenisa and Kipchoge will be competing in April, and this is the race I will be looking forward to watching because it’s an interesting race,” said Gebrselassie in Iten Friday night.
According to Gebrselassie, 46, both Bekele and Kipchoge are a true picture of hard working athletes who are a good example to the upcoming.
The Ethiopian legend has been in the North Rift to meet Kenyan athletes contracted by Adidas, his life-long apparel sponsors.
COACH OF THE YEAR
He held morning runs in Iten and visited Kipchoge’s training camp in Kaptagat besides also spending some time at St Patrick’s Iten, the hatching ground of Kenya’s distance runners where he met 2019 World Athletics Coach of the Year Colm O’Connell, himself an athletics legend.
“An athlete has to always train and work hard and after visiting Kipchoge in Kaptagat at their Global Sports Communication camp, I must say he is a great athlete. May the best athlete win the (London) race,” said Gebrselassie, adding that the good rivalry between Ethiopia and Kenya in distance running makes the London race even exciting.
“If there is a race without a Kenyan or Ethiopian, it will be boring, and that is why we need each other and this goes back to our times when we used to see the line-up and train hard because a Kenyan athlete was going to compete with me,” he said.
“It’s my first time to be in Iten and I must admit this is a place for champions. If you train under such weather, honestly you will be a world beater and that is why good athletes hail from this region,” he said.
“We are lucky as Africa because foreigners have been camping in Iten, Addis Ababa and other parts of the continent. Both governments should provide enough security to the athletes which is also one way of promoting tourism,” he added.
Gebrselassie also met with New York Marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei who said that she is inspired by the former athlete.
“I’m humbled to have met with Haile and interacted with him and I was able to learn one thing from him.
“He is a social person and talks to everyone who has his attention,” said Jepkosgei.
She also said Gebrselassie told her to work hard as she is “capable of breaking the world marathon record in future."