Kenyan wants more success on the streets of London, but Kenenisa Bekele is determined to become the holder of three world records
Eliud Kipchoge is widely seen as the world’s master of the marathon. However, the man himself insists he is still merely a ‘student’ when it comes to his chosen sport.
The 33-year-old will be looking to continue his running education with a third Virgin Money London Marathon victory which would add to his victories from 2015 and 2016 when he toes the start line alongside the stellar field assembled for this year’s race.
The reason for Kipchoge’s absence 12 months ago was his involvement in Nike’s much-publicised Breaking 2 project, where he came perilously close to achieving his aim as he clocked 2:00:25 and created big headlines, albeit in very controlled conditions on Monza race track in Italy.
The official marathon world record of 2:02:57 is still held by Dennis Kimetto, another mark which Kipchoge came tantalisingly close to breaking the last time he ran in the UK capital and won in a course record time of 2:03:05.
Depending on the weather conditions which prevail on Sunday, Kimetto’s record may well come under threat again not just from Kipchoge but also the likes of Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathon runner of all time with a personal best of 2:03:03, fellow Ethiopian Guye Adola and last year’s London winner Daniel Wanjiru.
Creating history is no easy task but, typcially for a man who displays little but serenity when he competes, if Kipchoge is feeling any pre-race tension then he is certainly not showing it.
“My training doesn’t need to be tested,” asserts the Berlin marathon winner who has not raced since he won in the German capital last September. “I don’t need to race in Europe or America to test my body (ahead of the marathon). I’ve made no changes at all to training.
“It’s important for me to win this race. I treat London as the best course ever, with the best crowd. This is the place to run a fast time and have a very fast race.
“I was happy to run that fast and to set the course record (in 2016) but I know in future that I will run something better than that.”
“I treat London as the best course ever, with the best crowd. This is the place to run a fast time and have a very fast race”
Will that happen on Sunday?
“What I can promise this Sunday is that it will be a beautiful race – beautiful for everyone.”
Kipchoge exudes quiet confidence and deservedly so, given his position at the marathon summit. Since coming second to Wison Kipsang in Berlin 2013, he has won all of the seven marathons he has contested.
He gives much of the credit for his performances to long-time coach and mentor Patrick Sang.
“I’m still a student,” says Kipchoge. “Patrick is my teacher. I’m doing what the student is required to do.”
While their training approach is one of simplicity, Kipchoge knows well from his Breaking 2 experience that technological advances have an increasing role to play in maximum performance, too. In fact, the current Olympic champion says he knows all the right ingredients that go into the recipe for success.
“With the combination of talent, good coaching and technology, then everything will be perfect,” he says.
“Success is not just based on hard work. It also depends on the skills being provided by the coach, the skills being provided by the technology and the hard work being provided by the athlete. All the three factors are equally shared.”
He adds: “Everybody has talent. But if you do not have passion then you cannot succeed.”
It’s that passion that will drive Kipchoge this weekend but he admits smiling helps, too. When everyone else around him is grimacing as they reach into the depths of their reserves in the final stages of a race, he tends to allow a grin to cross his face.
“The smile is what ignites my mind, so I can forget about the pain,” he says. “That is the beauty of a smile.”
Whether Kipchoge will be grinning at the top of the London podium this time around remains to be seen.
In Bekele, he faces a man determined to make up for recent patchy marathon performances and achieve what would be something of a holy trinity of world records.
“From the marathons I have run I only have two good results,” says multiple Olympic and world track champion Bekele, last year’s London runner-up who has failed to finish three of the eight marathons he has started yet has enjoyed wins in Berlin and Paris. “Of course I’m not happy with that.
“But now my injuries have gone and I’ve prepared well.
“I want to try my best to achieve the marathon record. I don’t know when or where but it’s what makes me hungry. For over 10 years I’ve held the records at 5000m and 10,000m. If I break the marathon record it would make it so special.”
Would it make him the greatest distance runner of all time?
“If no-one else has done that (broken those records) then that’s how I would feel.”
Kenenisa Bekele on how it would be “so special” to break the marathon WR and add it to his 5000m and 10,000m marks. “I know that will not be easy, but who knows?” #LondonMarathon @NNRunningTeam @LondonMarathon pic.twitter.com/nG5CoGUaV6