Double Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele signs up to Great Ireland Run, signalling potential move to the roads
In what has been a phenomenally successful career, Kenenisa Bekele has conquered the cross and triumphed on the track, laying claim to being one of the greatest ever distance runners. There is one area that he has so far ignored – the roads – but that could soon change after signing up to compete in this year’s SPAR Great Ireland Run.
His last competitive appearance is one he’ll be keen to forget. Competing in the short race at the Bupa Edinburgh Cross, Bekele was never in contention and finished outside the top 10, looking a shadow of the man who is arguably the most dominant cross-country runner in history, having notched up 15 gold medals at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships.
The first two of those gold medals came in 2002 in Dublin, so Bekele hopes that he can return to winning ways in that city when he competes there on April 15.
His appearance at the SPAR Great Ireland Run is notable as he has only ever competed in a handful of road races before. Many distance runners progress to the roads when their track career winds down, and it is expected that Bekele – who turns 30 later this year – will make that same move.
Bekele won the 5000m and 10,000m double at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships, but sat out most of 2010 through injury. He returned to defend his 10,000m title at last year’s World Championships, but failed to finish – his first blemish in that event, having won every single race he has ever contested over that distance.
But he ended the year with a glimmer of hope, when he won the 10,000m at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels with a world-leading 26:43.16, showing that he could still be a contender at this year’s Olympics when he will be up against world 5000m champion Mo Farah.
Before then though, he has the streets of Dublin to contend with. His 10km PB is 27:57, set en route to his third-place finish over 15km in Nijmegen in 2008. Should all go well, Bekele could be tempted to focus on a road-running career once this summer’s track season is out of the way.
Former Olympic medallist Brendan Foster – founder and chairman of race organisers Nova International – believes Bekele could follow in the footsteps of fellow Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie and Kenya’s Paul Tergat who, after illustrious cross country and track careers, successfully made the switch and became world marathon record holders.
“I know from speaking with his manager he is determined to prove his shape after a setback at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in January,” said Foster. “Everyone, particularly Mo Farah and other Olympic rivals, will be watching closely to see how he performs in the Phoenix Park.
“This will be a very important race for Kenenisa and a good field is being pulled together to give him a real test. He’s raced sparingly on the roads in the past so I’m certain it will also be important in his plans to move his career into a different direction after the London Games.”