Kipchoge and Bekele [Photo: Courtesy]

On September 16, 2018, Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge took the 'INEOS 1:59 Challenge' head-on in Vienna, Austria to become the first person to run a marathon in under two hours. Hailed for beating the clock by over a minute, Kipchoge’s ‘No Human Is Limited’ feat against the world record of 2:01:39 was viewed by some as the hallmark of human endurance that will stand for ages.

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However, in 2019, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele almost stole the show after he ran the same distance, two seconds shy from Kipchoge’s historic time. This excited fans across the world especially those from their respective nations as to who would win if the two great track athletes were to compete. Plans were mooted but were, unfortunately, shelved following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

With no sure date as to when the race would resume, news on August 6, 2020, of their faceoff in London filtered through. Though not set on stone, the two marathoners will on October 4 meet in the same race for the first time in history on a bio-secure closed course in St. James's Park. For Kenyans, all eyes will be on arguably the greatest marathoner of all time, Kipchoge. His level of endurance, physical and mental discipline and consistency is unrivalled.

Under the long term guidance and coaching from his friend and mentor Patrick Sang, Kipchoge’s first burst on the senior international scene was as a teenager. He defeated track icons Hicham El Guerrouj and rival Bekele to 5000m gold at the 2003 world championships. He has since claimed victory in 10 out of 11 marathons, racking up an unprecedented nine successive victories over the 42.2km distance. 

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Bekele is no pushover. Aside from his near-record-breaking run in Berlin, he has smashed six world records. Bekele holds the 5,000m and 10,000m world records and boasts over 21 Olympic and World Champion titles.

Reactions from fans told it all…