The adrenaline levels are running high as the world’s top two marathoners — Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele — are set for an epic clash at this year’s London Marathon.
The battle will no doubt result in a dogfight at St James Park in Central London on Sunday.
Interestingly, the two global stars share a cocktail of similarities. They are accustomed to hilly terrains as they were born and bred within the Great Rift Valley stretch.
Kipchoge comes from Kapsisywo village in Nandi County while Bekele was born in Bekoji village in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, some 300km south of Addis Ababa.
Just like Nandi County, Bekoji is in a high altitude region. It stands at 10,500 feet above sea level and is an arable area where crops like tea, cereals, coffee and oil seeds grow.
He is a triple Olympic champion and world record-holder on the track and became the world’s second-fastest marathon runner of all time when he won the 2019 Berlin Marathon in 2:03.41.
Bekele’s father was reportedly opposed to his son’s athletics career but relented when he saw it was driven by religious faith.
His father said he named him Kenenisa, which means ‘you brought me delight’ in the Oromo language, while Kipchoge means ‘one born by the granary’ in Kalenjin language.
They are managed by Jos Hermens of Global Sports Communications camp in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Kipchoge turns 36 next month while Bekele is 38 years old.
Kipchoge engages in tea and dairy farming and has invested in real estate.
Bekele and Kipchoge have waged some epic battles on the track for many years. At the 2003 World Championships in Paris, the then 18-year-old Kipchoge defeated Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj. Five years later, Bekele ran away with 5,000m crown at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Kipchoge usually puts up an exceptional marathon performance every time he goes to the start line as his marathon record now stands at 10 victories from 11 starts, with the course record in London (2:03:05), 2:00:25 at Breaking2 in 2017) and Ineos Challenge where he set a brilliant 1:59.40 in Vienna last year.
Last year, Bekele went two seconds (2:03.41) shy of Kipchoge’s world record mark of 2:01.39 at the Berlin Marathon.
According to statistics pulled together by Running Magazine, the pair have met 20 times across all surfaces and distances.
In total, Bekele has won 11 of the 14 track meetings between them while Kipchoge has won all four of their marathon meetings.