April 26, 2018

Kenenisa Bekele’s Marathon World Record Attempt

It is now just under two weeks now until Kenenisa Bekele will attempt to break the marathon world record in Dubai . If he does so, he will simultaneously hold all three of the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon world records, giving himself a string case to be the greatest distance runner of all time.

This rebound to world beating form looked a way off or even impossible after great injury struggles over the last ten years. Having had issues with both his knee and calf, Kenenisa Bekele subsequently built his own track in Addis Ababa to reduce stress on his legs from the previously hard track which he was training on.

With his training set up now improved, we are seeing a resurgence of the form which we saw take him to the 10,000m world record (26:17.53) back in 2005. Although, this time, he has stepped up the distance and is pursuing the marathon world record.


Strength of Kimetto’s World Record

This is a record which has stood at 2:02:57 since September 2014, the longest the marathon world record has stood since the 4 year gap between 2003-2007 when Haile Gebrselassie burst onto the scene, rewriting what was thought possible over the 26.2 mile distance.

The length at which this record has stood emphasises the achievements Dennis Kimetto, however it is also a record that I believe is soon to come tumbling down.

Kimetto’s World Record is still standing

Over the last 3 years that the record has stood, both Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge have come agonisingly close to the sub 2:03 mark which only Kimetto has once gone under. In the London Marathon back in April 2016, Kipchoge ran 2:03:05, celebrating as he came towards the finish without realising his time, leaving him extremely disappointed with what could have been.

This was followed up with another incredibly close run by Kenenisa Bekele in September 2016 at the Berlin Marathon where he ran 2:03:03, just 6 seconds off the world record. This run was a statement, not only to his competitors that he is back to his best, but also to the Ethiopian Athletics Federation who chose not to select him for the 2016 Rio Olympic marathon, despite his form.

Now, with 2017 being the fourth year which the marathon world record has stood, I believe it is close to being not only broken, but completely shattered, entering marathon running into a new stage.


Kenenisa Bekele’s Record Attempt

Now, this may not necessarily happen in a couple of weeks when Kenenisa Bekele goes after the record, conditions are hot and it is still early season in marathon running. To break the record he is going to have to run faster than an average of 4:41 min/mile which equates to 29:08 for each 10km split consecutively, four times over.

Having run so close to this mark only four months ago in Berlin, Kenenisa Bekele has the ability and knowledge of the distance to see him go under 2:02:57. Despite saying this, the marathon is a horrible distance which shouldn’t be treated lightly, for him to break the record, all must go exactly to plan and conditions must be suitable for Bekele to go as fast as he claims he can do.

Even if in a few weeks the record is broken by Bekele, I actually believe that it wont stand for long. And if/when it is broken later this year, it is again likely to be by Kenenisa Bekele in the London Marathon in April. The London Marathon has always been one of the headline major marathons of the year, bringing in the biggest runners along with a fast course, making for a great race each year.

There will technically be two London marathons this year as London plays host to the 2017 World Championships in August. This again will be another great race where all the biggest names in marathon running will come up against one another; in fact this will most likely be the only time the best in the world will actually race each other all year.


Sub 2 Hour Projects

Nike’s Breaking2 Project

As well as the major city marathons of Berlin, London etc. there are special projects underway, funded and marketed through major sports brands of Nike and Adidas.

Nike recently announced their sub 2 hour marathon project – branded as breaking2 – which is looking to give three of Nike’s sponsored athletes of Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa the opportunity to run the perfect race

“It requires reducing the current men’s world record time of 2:02:57 by three percent.”

I personally believe that it is a shame that Nike are attempting this record, albeit a phenomenal achievement if successful. For me, the problem with this attempt is that it comes across as more of a publicity stunt rather than a genuine attempt. The athletes will have continuous pace makers, be on a lapped course and all of which will result in an eligible time at the end of it.

The athletes – most likely only Kipchoge will be able to maintain the sub 4:35 min/ mile pace – who break the record will actually have no official time as the course and pace makers violate the IAAF rules for official times. Along with the times not being counted, it also takes away the possibility of a great head to head battle between he best three marathon runners in the world on a fast course such as London.

Instead of seeing Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang line up and race head to head, only Bekele is to run London out of the top stars of marathon running. This is a shame as it would have led to the perfect opportunity for an incredibly fast, and all importantly legal marathon world record.

But despite this lost opportunity, Kenenisa Bekele still looks int he shape of his life and will undoubtedly come close and in my eyes break the current world record of 2:02:57 in Dubai. Then when it comes to the notoriously fast course of London in April, again the record will be under threat. We will just have to wait until the World Championships to determine who really is the best marathon runner in the world, which for me still remains Eliud Kipchoge despite his absence from the major marathons this year.

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