It was ladies first in the reveal of star athletes by the organisers of the 40th Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday, 26 April 2020. Having observed the necessary etiquette, appropriate as the women's elite race starts first, we can now savour the announcement that last year's top four men are set to clash in the capital once again. And that they will be joined by Kenenisa Bekele.
The announcement that Bekele will be in the field means that the two greatest distance runners in history and the two fastest men ever over the marathon distance will go head to head on the streets of London on Sunday 26 April in a contest the world has been waiting to see.
Kipchoge (KEN) is the greatest marathon runner of all time. He became the first man to run a sub two-hour marathon at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge last year, he is the Olympic champion, four-time Virgin Money London Marathon winner and the official world record holder for 26.2 miles.
But that world record time of 2:01:39 was so nearly broken by Bekele at last September's BMW Berlin Marathon. The Ethiopian great, who is the current world record holder for both the 5000m and 10000m, finished just two seconds outside Kipchoge's world record.
Ever since that incredible run from Bekele, there has been a worldwide clamour for the two men to race each other again over 26.2 miles. Kipchoge confirmed prior to Christmas that he will run in the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon and today we can reveal that Bekele has taken up the challenge to run in what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated races in marathon history.
However, the marathon can be a fickle friend and there are no titles given away, they have to be earned. Last year, Kipchoge was pushed to the limit by his Ethiopian challengers, Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun, who were only dropped in the very late stages. Geremew, 27, ran the fifth fastest time in history (2:02:55) to take second place last year and then had to settle for second again in his next marathon, the 2019 World Championships in Doha last October.
Wasihun’s 2:03:16 for third last year was the 11th fastest marathon the world had ever seen and Shura Kitata, fourth last year and second in 2018, has also confirmed to ensure another robust Ethiopian challenge to the superstar Kipchoge-Bekele axis.
Spencer Barden, Head of Elite Athletes, said: “Last year’s Virgin Money London Marathon elite men’s race was one of the best races we have seen for many years. Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun 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.”
Now Bekele is in the mix to add extra spice to what was already set to be a classic renewal of Virgin Money London Marathon.
The VMLM will be the fifth race in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XIII schedule. With three races already completed (2019 World Championships, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon) the lead is shared by Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia), Lawrence Cherono (Kenya) and Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya). Geremew is in fourth place after his silver at the World Championships.
The complete fields, including the leading British athletes, will be announced on Friday (17 January) and will be shared with runABC readers next week.