In London, on March 1, 2020, Kenenisa Bekele ran 1:00:22 in the London Half Marathon.
Early on in the race, Chris Thompson of the United Kingdom gaped Bekele and looked to have him beaten. Bekele, however, was just holding back, and later, Bekele took over and won. In the race, he broke the course record for the London Half Marathon by over a minute.
“The new course record is a great bonus. I wasn’t focused on time today, I just wanted to win,” Bekele told BBC.
In about a month and a half, Bekele and the marathon world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, will be facing off in the London Marathon. Kipchoge is widely considered the world’s greatest marathoner, having broken 2 hours in the marathon and running 2:01:39 as a marathon world record in the 2019 Berlin Marathon.
The 2020 London Marathon is so significant because it’s a test to see who is the greatest distance runner of all time.
Kenenisa Bekele dominated on the track. He won Olympic gold medals and currently, to this day, holds the world records in the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters. Oh, and the person he beat to win the 5,000-meter gold medal in 2008? Eliud Kipchoge.
In every race, Bekele would inspire and astound with a seemingly unbeatable kick and finish at the end of the race. Kipchoge didn’t have the same fire on the track.
But with time came a lot of transition. Bekele succumbed to injury after injury. Kipchoge struggled on the track with the dominance of Mo Farah at the 5,000 meters, and moved to the marathon. Kipchoge ended up being dominant. He has won all but one of the marathons he has competed in, and currently holds the marathon world record.
Besides Bekele, no one in the world can compete with Kipchoge. No one can run an equivalent time, and while no one believed in Bekele’s ability to match Kipchoge’s marathon prowess, Bekele returned in grand fashion at 37 years of age to win the 2019 Berlin Marathon within 2 seconds of Kipchoge’s world record.
I wrote this on Bekele’s surprising victory and time about half a year ago:
Kenenisa Bekele is the GOAT and Michael Jordan of distance running. And with his performance in Berlin and statement return to extreme prominence, Bekele is back. I remember watching Bekele be the God of distance running when I first got into the sport in middle school. It’s hard to believe that that was so long ago, in 2009 and 2010, and Bekele has gone through adversity and hardship with injuries and failures. I read thread after thread on LetsRun, a forum for the running community, about Kenenisa being washed up and irrelevant. And it was hard to argue those statements: despite some eye-opening victories, they were largely isolated performances that were separated by Bekele dropping out after lackluster training and injuries.
“I have shown that my career is far from over,” Bekele said of his race.
Bekele is the greatest talent in the world of distance running. Although Kipchoge has accomplished more success at the marathon, when Bekele is healthy, fit, and at his peak, he is the Muhammad Ali or Tiger Woods of his sport. And like both athletes, Bekele peaked early in his career. Now, he is at the mountaintop once again.
Kipchoge has more fame and success in the marathon because he has been more consistent. Kipchoge has stayed more healthy and put in successful race after successful race. Bekele doesn’t have the same consistency and reliability, especially at this age.
You can bet that Kipchoge will be ready to go and put in his best performance n the London Marathon. Bekele? I’m not so sure.
But what proves me wrong is Bekele’s performance in the London Half Marathon. No, Bekele didn’t run one of the best half marathons out there. But Kenenisa proved that he’s still got it, still ready to improve, and still ready to go about two months before the race of the giants. It will be a battle reminiscent of Kobe vs. LeBron, or LeBron vs. Steph, a battle between the greatest runner of all time and the greatest marathoner of all time.
If both are on their best on the day, Kenenisa Bekele will defeat Eliud Kipchoge.