London Marathon Preview: Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele predict 'fast' 2020 race
The Olympic champions and world record holders will go head-to-head on Sunday 4th October at the 2020 London Marathon.
The two world record holders did not reveal the exact pace they will run.
But the Olympic champions agreed that the looped course around St James' Park in the centre of the city could offer one of fastest London Marathon times ever.
"I have never seen a slow pace... especially when Kipchoge is there." - Kenenisa Bekele on 2020 London Marathon
"[I think] 61 minutes will be ok,” said Kipchoge, referring to his potential half-marathon split time.
Kipchoge holds the current world record of 2:01.39.
Does the looped course at the 2020 London Marathon mean the world record is under threat?
The media were keen to know if there would be a threat to the world record in the looped 2.15km circuit, for the race that's being held without spectators due to coronavirus restrictions.
“At the moment I am not planning to set a pace. I can guess but I am not sure if the pace will be really fast,” Bekele responded.
“You can guess the time…” quipped Kipchoge.
Bekele smiled and changed his mind. Perhaps he was remembering the stiff competition.
“I have never seen a slow pace, especially at the London Marathon... Especially when Kipchoge is there! ” Bekele responded.
“The pace is usually fast at the beginning and somehow in the second half cooling down.”
Considering their strong track background, the looped course should not be much of a challenge for the two favourites.
Kipchoge, the 2003 5,000m world champion, will certainly bank on the experience gained racing the Breaking2, when he completed a marathon around the 2.41km Formula 1 track in Monza in 2018 before 2019's successful attempt to beat the two-hour mark in Vienna around a looped 9.65km course.
“The laps will be ok, there will no problem as far as laps will be concerned,” said Kipchoge who timed 1:59.40 in Vienna, adding that the looped course will give him access “to more drinks than in a normal marathon” course.
"I will remain focused as always as I am not the only one going round the 19 laps, all of us start at the same time, the same distance and breathing the same air. It won’t distract my focus." - Eliud Kipchoge
Bekele, a multiple track record holder and five-times world champion, prefers racing on the usual marathon course.
“It’s not an easy thing running curves, it’s a long way. At some point. you are losing speed or some seconds, I don’t know how curved it is,” Bekele reasoned.
"I think one lap is better, when its multi-laps [it] is boring repeating the same place. In this repetition [if] you like some place, or don’t like another place that you have to face many times this makes you uncomfortable and stressed."
Kipchoge's late start to the 2020 season
Kipchoge has not raced competitively in nearly a full year.
It's the longest he has gone without running a full marathon since his debut in Hamburg in 2013.
The Kenyan is content and confident rating his fitness 'eight out of 10' despite not competing in 2020 so far due to pandemic disruption.
"Eight out of 10." - Kipchoge rates his current fitness ahead of 2020 London Marathon
His last performance was in October 2019 when he became the first man to run 42km in under two-hours.
“I am fit.. I can’t say I am 10 [out of 10]. There is the [usual] wear and tear like a car,” he said to the Olympic Channel
Eliud Kipchoge remains committed to racing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Participants at the 2020 London Marathon will be eligible for qualification points that count for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
Both Kipchoge and Bekele were named in their teams’ provisional squads for Tokyo and are still keen on carrying their nations flag at the Olympics.
“Absolutely yes, [I plan to go to the Olympics]. I will not let down those who give me the ticket. I will say a big yes," said Kipchoge.
"If all goes well then I am going to participate in the Olympics next year." - Eliud Kipchoge
Bekele added: “No one can be sure but the only thing is that you can hope and prepare for [the Olympics].”
COVID-19 has meant training setbacks for elite men at 2020 London Marathon
Both men suffered difficulties in their respective countries during their preparation
“It [Covid-19] came in like an electric shock whereby everyone started training in isolation. Or even skipped training. It was a hard time, but I tried to hold the pace to make sure that I became fit,” said Kipchoge.
“But lately I consolidated the whole team."
“Still now, it is really difficult in Africa," added Bekele.
"COVID-19 - it affected us more. We tried our best to prepare well,” offered Bekele.
Kipchoge advocates for technology in shoe debate
The two teammates, who are both managed by the Dutch-based NN Running Team, will wear Nike.
Kipchoge will wear customised Alphafly Next% he wore last year which have been criticised as long-standing records have tumbled.
“We live in 21st century. Firstly, we need to accept change and, secondly, development goes hand-in-hand with technology.
"The shoe is good and the accepted technology pattern.
"So, we need to accept technology in our hearts. Move on. We want to develop in this world."
Bekele will wear the Vaporfly - the shoes he wore when he almost broke the world record in Berlin in September 2019.
"I have some problems. I need some time to adapt," he said.