It’s easily the most eagerly anticipated sporting contest in the world since Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor: Wilson Kipsang vs Eliud Kipchoge vs Kenenisa Bekele.
The target? A new world record at the Berlin Marathon on September 24.
And Kipsang feels he’s just the man for the job, confident he will lower Volare Sports stable-mate Dennis Kimetto’s standing record of two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds on the fluid streets of the German political capital.
Spending a better part of the last two days in Elgeyo Marakwet County with the Tokyo Marathon champion, a political rookie who lost out on the Jubilee nominations for Keiyo North Constituency, I’m certainly convinced Kipsang means business.
He’s been in this territory before, shattering compatriot Patrick Makau’s then world record over the 42-kilometre distance with an amazing 2:03:23 run at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, a record that stood for just 12 months before Kimetto lowered it to 2:02:57, the first sub-2:03 time.
“If you compare me with those guys (Bekele and Kipchoge), I stand a chance because having broken the world record before, and having more experience, and if I prepare myself and I’m in the same shape like when I broke the world record, I think I can beat those guys,” he confidently said.
Incidentally, both Bekele and Kipchoge are managed by Global Sports Communication which, like Volare Sports, is headquartered in the Netherlands.
In between his political campaigns, Kipsang ran the fastest marathon time ever on Japanese soil, winning February’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:03:58.
“After Tokyo I took a month for recovery and rest,” Kipsang said after a light evening workout at Anin, on the road to Kibendo Secondary School in Keiyo North.
“By the look of things, I have improved so much and I hope I will be in top shape during the competition on September 24.”
The campaigns didn’t affect him at all, if his course record in the Tokyo Marathon is anything to go by.
“My preparation wasn’t much affected (by the political campaigns) because during the preparations for the nominations, I prepared myself very well, competed in Tokyo, came back and completed the nominations after which I have had a really nice time just resting and preparing for Berlin.
In Berlin, Kipsang will be up against Olympic champion Kipchoge, whose attempt to break the two-hour barrier in the marathon fell just 25 agonizing seconds short on a bespoke Monza Formula One Circuit last May in a special attempt engineered by his shoe sponsors Nike.
Also attempting to break the record is Ethiopia’s multiple world and Olympic track champion Bekele, 35, whose arrival in marathon running has ruffled a few feathers.
At last year’s Berlin Marathon, Bekele beat his age-mate Kipsang to the winner’s tape, with the Ethiopian legend running a personal best 2:03:03, the second fastest marathon, all time, in a race where the world record could easily have fallen.
Kipsang’s second place finish (2:03:13) was his personal best, and even faster than the world record he set on this course in 2013.
“My preparation has been to break the record again,” Kipsang adds, reassuringly.
“I tried (to break the world record) last year in Berlin but I didn’t have enough co-operation from Bekele, but I hope this time they (Bekele and Kipchoge) will co-operate well.
“If you look at the start line for this year’s race, myself as the former world record holder, Kipchoge, who has been very close to the world record, and Bekele who has also been very close… each one of us has the potential of breaking the world record and it’s also a matter of making sure that we have the right combination and right co-operation during the race.”