London Marathon: Kenenisa Bekele injured!
Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele crosses the finish line to win the Berlin Marathon on September 29, 2019, in Berlin. [Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP]

Ethiopian long-distance runner and the current world record and Olympic record holder in the 10,000-metre event Kenenisa Bekele has withdrawn from the much-awaited London Marathon set for Sunday.

Bekele, who was due to race against the world record marathon holder Eliud Kipchoge, picked up a calf injury ahead of the blockbuster race.

“I am very disappointed that I cannot race on Sunday. It has been a tough preparation time with lockdown when I couldn’t have my NN team around me.

“I was in good shape but then I picked up a niggle in my left calf after two fast training sessions too close together in the last weeks of preparation,” Bekele told race organisers on Friday.

He added: “I have been having treatment every day since then and I truly believed I would be ready but today it is worse and I now know I cannot race on it.

“This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin last year gave me great confidence and motivation and I was looking forward to show that again, I have worked so hard for it.

“I know many people around the world have been looking forward to this race and I am sorry to disappoint my fans, the organisers and my fellow competitors. I will take time to recover and become fit again and I hope to be back in London next year.”

Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, Hugh Brasher, wished the most successful runner in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships a quick recovery.

“The world has been waiting to see this head to head between Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge but it will now not happen this Sunday. We know how disappointed he is and we wish him a speedy recovery.

“This was never likely to be just a two-man race as we had four of the top ten fastest marathon runners ever and six men in the field who have broken 2:05, including Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun, second and third last year, and 2018 runner-up Shura Kitata,” Brasher pointed out.

London Marathon: Kenenisa Bekele injured!
Marathon athletes (L-R) Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya, Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia and Wilson Kipsang from Kenya hold up their start numbers as they pose during a press conference in Berlin on September 22, 2017, to promote the Berlin Marathon to take place on September 24. [AFP PHOTO / dpa / Wolfgang Kumm]

The race will take place on an enclosed looped course in St James’s Park in a secure biosphere, a contained safe environment like that of Formula 1 and England cricket, with performances eligible for Olympic qualification.

Bekele won the Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:03:03 in 2016, a new personal best, then the third-fastest marathon of all time.

He won the Berlin Marathon in September 2019 in 2:01:41, the second-fastest time ever and just two seconds off of the world record set by Kenya’s Kipchoge on the same course the previous year.

The Ethiopian recently (March 2020) won the London half marathon in 60:22. He improved on the course record by 1:18 minutes formerly set by Mo Farah in 2019.

The women’s race on Sunday features the world record holder Brigid Kosgei, world champion Ruth Chepngetich and 2018 London champion Vivian Cheruiyot.

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