Kipchoge, Bekele can't afford to slip up
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge (white jersey) celebrates after crossing the finish line at the end of his attempt to bust the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon on October 12, 2019, in Vienna. [Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP]

From south pole to north pole, the world awaits the clash between world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele at the London Marathon on Sunday.

But the race looks unpredictable. It will not be held on the traditional course which starts at Blackheath, south of the River Thames, then pass through various iconic and landmarks like the river, Thames, Big Ben, London Eye, the Tower Bridge, Canary Whaff, the Buckingham Palace to the finish at The Mall.

It will be staged in a mile loop at St James Park in Central London.

While many also think the race is all about Kipchoge and Bekele, other athletes have been going about their preparation with minimum fuss and they could shock the two main men in the race.

Dr Kipchumba Byron, a Kinesiology and Sports Management expert, said several factors will play up.

“First, there is the psychological factor. Some Ethiopian athletes missed the flight on Sunday. So, Kenyans have the ground advantage. They arrived in London ahead of them.

“The two athletes have not raced this season. It’s difficult to assess their level of fitness. But Kipchoge will be out to prove a point about his 1:59.40 mark he set in Ineos Challenge.

“On the other hand, Bekele has a point to prove. That when Kipchoge was running 1:59, he almost broke the world record in Berlin which he missed by two seconds. The race would present an interesting psychological warfare with unique mechanics of running,” he said.

Kipchoge, Bekele can't afford to slip up
Athletics – London Marathon – Elite Men Press Conference – London, Britain – April 19, 2018. Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru and Eliud Kipchoge with Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele and Guye Adola pose for a photograph. [Reuters/Peter Cziborra]

Kipchumba said how the race is planned will determine the results.

“Again, what the race means for Kipchoge and Bekele. We may not have another clash between the two.

“One of them may decide to retire after the race and that would play around the chemistry. The set of pace makers is also important,” Kipchumba said.

He said the lack of crowd support on Sunday will also count. “Most athletes get psyched up with the huge crowds. There will no crowds at St James Park.

“There is a question of time and weather during the race. If an athlete trained under the conditions experienced in London on Sunday, then that athlete will carry the day,” he said.

Joseph Ngure, a World Athletics elite coach, said a dark horse would spring a surprise.

“The lineup is very strong and we cannot rule out surprises. It happens. Look at Daniel Wanjiru at the 2017 London Marathon, no one talked about him and he won the race.

“Brigid Kosgei a surprise against Vivian Cheruiyot, who was defending her title at last year’s London Marathon. So, anything can happen,” he said.

In four head-to-head encounters, Kipchoge has come out on top comfortably each time, defeating Bekele by 1:40 at 2014 Chicago, 3:31 at 2016 London and winning 2017 Berlin in a world-leading 2:03:32, in a race that Bekele could not even finish.

Kipchoge and Bekele have met 20 times across all surfaces and distances.


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