The World marathon record holder upbeat ahead of title defence in London.
Despite not having raced competitively since October 2019, Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge feels he is in ‘good shape’ to defend his London Marathon title.
Like most of track and field and other road racing events, the 2020 London Marathon has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and will be staged on 4 October instead of the usual April date with an Elite-only race.
Most of the 40 athletes earmarked to race in a secure biosphere on an enclosed looped course in St James’s Park will be competing for the first time this year.
The Kenyan feels that training during the lockdown, and several months off from the road, have made him even stronger.
“I have been training very well, with high profile coaching. I am in good shape but I will be in better shape in the next two months to face the other competitors in London,” Kipchoge said on Saturday at a virtual press conference at the Masai Mara game reserve where he was speaking as an ambassador for Kenyan tourism.
“The rule number one is that I treat myself as the best one, I am going to run there as Eliud Kipchoge to represent Kenya at the London Marathon."
The much-anticipated head-to-head between Kipchoge and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele will headline the 40th edition of the London Marathon.
They are the two fastest men over the marathon distance.
Kipchoge has not raced since he broke the two-hour marathon in Vienna on 12 October last year.
Bekele, on the other hand, last raced at the 2019 Berlin marathon on 29 September, when he finished just two seconds off Kipchoge's world record of two hours, one minute and 39 seconds.
Kipchoge, who is eyeing an unprecedented fifth London Marathon title, remains hopeful that they can still showcase their best forms in London.
“I think all the athletes will come back stronger, more than is expected,” he said.
“Covid has hit sport in a negative way, but you know people have been working behind the scenes and training very well. Expect a strong comeback.”
Three-time Olympic champion Bekele hopes to make up for the world record miss with another fast run in London.
“To run against Eliud Kipchoge…the two of us, having prepared well, I'm sure something could have happened on that day,” Bekele told the Olympic Channel in April.
“I respect Eliud Kipchoge. He's a strong athlete, very smart. We will put up a good competition. If we compete together this year, I'm sure it will be a good, good race. It's not so far away, five, six months is a very short time.”
The Ethiopian – who denied Kipchoge the 5,000m title at Beijing 2008 – has come up short in their last four marathon contests, but he is confident that in his current shape, he could surprise his long-time rival.
“He is a human. If someone is well prepared and strong enough, why not? It's a race. You cannot give, all the time, 100 per cent in a competition.”- Kenenisa Bekele on Eliud Kipchoge
Kipchoge, who has won 11 out of 12 marathons since his marathon debut in Hamburg in 2013, wants to start – and end – his season with a dominant victory.
“I will be respecting everybody. I am looking forward to running the London Marathon. I respect all the elites, I cannot concentrate on one person.”
Kipchoge is happy with the training he has put in over the last three months since the closure of his training camp at Kaptagat where he works with his long-term coach and mentor Patrick Sang.
“I am training in a good way, for the last three months, I have been training alone, sometimes having three other people and maintaining social distancing just to keep the momentum in the right gear. But for the last three weeks, since the President lifted the [lockdown] restrictions, we have been trying to consolidate our team to about 10 people where you can train in a good but not congested way.”
He has no other plans to race after London with his focus fixed on adding another Olympic title in Tokyo.
“It will be a great thing, and it will be a great addition on my CV. If all goes well next year, 2021, I'll defend my title in marathon in a competitive field and a good time."
World record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya heads the women’s field in London. Six-time British Paralympic champion David Weir and 2017 London winner Manuela Schär of Switzerland will lead the wheelchair fields.