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Kenenisa to take on Kipchoge at London Marathon
Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge

Kenenisa to take on Kipchoge at London Marathon

The gladiatorial match-up the whole world has been waiting for – Eliud Kipchoge versus Kenenisa Bekele – is on and will take place on 26 April at the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Two of the greatest distance runners in history and the two fastest men ever over the marathon distance will go head to head at this World Athletics Platinum Label road race in a contest the world has been waiting to see.

Kipchoge, the 2018 and 2019 World Athlete of the year, is widely considered the greatest marathon runner of all time. The Kenyan is the Olympic champion, a four-time London Marathon winner and the official world record holder for 26.2 miles at 2:01:39. In October, he became the first man to run a sub two-hour marathon at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, an exhibition event in Vienna.

But his world record was nearly broken by Kenenisa at last September’s BMW Berlin Marathon. The Ethiopian great, who is the current world record holder for both the 5000m and 10,000m and twice World Athlete of the Year, finished just two seconds outside Kipchoge’s world record.

Kipchoge, 35, confirmed in December that he’d be returning to London. Kenenisa, 37, has also taken up the challenge to run in what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated races in marathon history.

“This is a match-up of two of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen and two men who already have their names in the record books,” said Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon. “We are thrilled we have been able to make it happen in London.”

“It is the head to head the world is waiting to see.”

Kenenisa, whose best finish in the London Marathon was second in 2017, said: “I am thrilled to be returning to London. I feel like I have unfinished business here and I would love to win this beautiful race.

“I am looking forward to racing against Eliud once again. We have had many great battles over the years on the track, roads and cross-country. He is a special athlete who proved that again with his magnificent achievements last year.

“I feel like my win in Berlin proved that I am still capable of winning the biggest races in the world and in world-class times. I am really looking forward to what I can do in London.”

Kipchoge and Kenenisa have previously met four times over the marathon distance, including twice in London (2016 and 2018), with Kipchoge coming out on top each time. But Kenenisa has the better head-to-head record over all distances and surfaces.

Kenenisa is also a three-time Olympic gold medallist and he has won 17 world titles on the track, cross-country and indoors.

The two men spearhead the men’s field which also includes the second and third-placed finishers from last year, Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun.

Mosinet, 27, ran the fifth fastest time in history of 2:02:55 to take second place behind Kipchoge in last year’s race and then had to settle for second again in his next marathon, the World Championships in Doha last October.

Mule’s time in finishing third in London last year, 2:03:16, was the 11th fastest marathon the world has ever seen.

Shura Kitata, who was fourth last year and second in 2018, has also been confirmed, ensuring that it looks likely to be a year when it is the Ethiopians who will be the biggest threat to Kipchoge winning a historic fifth London Marathon title.

Spencer Barden, London Marathon's head of elite athletes, said: “Last year’s elite men’s race was one of the best races we have seen for many years. Mosinet and Mule pushed Eliud Kipchoge as hard as I have ever seen but ultimately could not hang on to the great man in the final two miles. But they will have taken confidence from last year and will come back this time round looking to cause a real shock.”

Kipchoge, who made history by becoming the first human to cover the marathon distance within two hours at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in October, is looking to become the most successful able-bodied athlete in London Marathon history by winning a fifth title in 2020. (IAAF)