An epic battle is in the offing when world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge takes on rival Kenenisa Bekele at the London Marathon in April.
The race organisers announced on Thursday that Bekele had confirmed his participation in the race, joining an already crowded elite field that has Kipchoge and the Ethiopian duo of Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun.
Geremew and Wasihun pushed the legendary Kipchoge to the limits at the London Marathon.
Kipchoge and Bekele, the two greatest distance runners in history and the two fastest men ever over the marathon distance, will go head to head on the streets of London on April 26 in a contest the world has been waiting to see.
It will be the third time the two protagonists are facing off in London with Kipchoge, the World Marathon record holder, having won in two previous occasions in 2016 and 2018. Kipchoge also won the 2017 Berlin Marathon where Bekele failed to finish the race.
Kipchoge, the 2016 Rio Olympic champion, will be going for an unprecedented fifth title on his fifth appearance at the London streets, having won the event in a course record time of 2 hours, 02 minutes and 37 seconds last year.
Bekele will be yearning for his maiden victory in London after finishing third in 2016, second in 2017 and sixth in 2018. He lost to Kipchoge in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
Kipchoge, widely regarded as the greatest marathon runner of all time, goes into the race with his chin up after becoming the first man to run a sub two-hour marathon at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge last year, clearing the course in Vienna in1:59:40.
Kipchoge set a new World Marathon record when he won Berlin Marathon in 2:01 39 in 2018 but Bekele nealry broke the record last year on the same course. The Ethiopian great, who is the current world record holder for both the 5000m and 10000m, finished just two seconds outside Kipchoge’s world record.
Ever since that incredible run from Bekele, there has been a worldwide clamour for the two men to face each other again over 26.2 miles.
Kipchoge confirmed prior to Christmas that he will run at this year’s London Marathon and according to the organisers, Bekele has taken up the challenge to run in what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated races in marathon history.
“This is a match-up of two of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen and two men who already have their names in the record books. We are thrilled we have been able to make it happen in London,” said Hugh Brasher, event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, on their website.
“It is truly fitting that this matchup between two legends of the sport takes place at this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, the 40th race in the fantastic history of our event. It is the head to head the world is waiting to see.”
Bekele, whose best finish in the London Marathon was second in 2017, said: “I am thrilled to be returning to London. I feel like I have unfinished business here and I would love to win this beautiful race."
“I am looking forward to racing against Eliud once again. 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.
“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. I am really looking forward to what I can do in London.”
Bekele is also a three-time Olympic gold medallist and he has won 17 world titles on the track, cross-country and indoor.
The two men spearhead the elite men’s field at the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon which also includes the second and third-placed finishers from last year, Ethiopia’s Geremew and Wasihun.
London Marathon will be the fifth race in the World Marathon Majors (WMM) Series XIII schedule. With three races already completed (the 2019 World Championships, 2019 Chicago Marathon and 2019 New York City Marathon), the lead is shared by Lelisa Desisa (ETH), Lawrence Cherono (KEN) and Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN). Geremew is in tied fourth place after his second-placed finish at the World Championships.