Kiptum's death casts shadow over London Marathon for Bekele

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum reacts after winning the men's elite race at 2023 London Marathon in London, Britain last year. Kiptum died in a tragic road accident in February 2024. [Xinhua]

Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele said Kelvin Kiptum will always have a special place at the London Marathon after the Kenyan's tragic death.

Bekele, a three-time Olympic track champion, is gearing up for Sunday's latest edition of the race in the English capital.

But the event will be overshadowed by the absence of long-distance runner Kiptum, who won last year's London Marathon for the third time before dying in a car accident in February.

Kiptum set a new London Marathon record time of two hours, one minute and 25 seconds last year and he was also the first man to run the marathon under two hours and one minute in Chicago.

The 24-year-old's death sent shockwaves through the sport and he will be remembered before Sunday's race with 30 seconds of applause.

Bekele, who won Olympic gold in both the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres at the 2008 Games in Beijing, has run the London Marathon five times, finishing as runner-up in 2017.

The 41-year-old, who also has five World Championship titles on the track, is in no doubt of the lasting impact made by Kiptum.

"Kelvin of course, all of us miss him. Even within his short time, he has been setting an amazing history," Bekele told reporters yesterday.

"The course record is also under his name and we are all remembering him.

"We put him in a special place in our heart because in a really short time he has done a lot for our sport."

Bekele believes a lot of factors will come into play if Kiptum's course record is to be challenged this weekend.

"Most of the time in London, maybe the first half is a very fast start because of pacing, but with me it can depend," he said.

"I can read my body, listening to my feelings and of course the circumstances - like with the weather."

Ethiopia's Tamirat Tola comes into London as the reigning New York Marathon champion, which followed on from his victory at the 2022 World Championship in Eugene.

Tola, who claimed 10,000m bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, feels in good shape heading into Sunday's showpiece race.

"I have been working hard to prepare my body for the marathon in London," he said.

"My training is OK and my body is okay, so we will see (what happens) on Sunday."

Selection for this year's Olympics in Paris could also be secured this weekend, but Tola will not let that distract his focus.

"If I am selected for the Olympics, I will be happy, but it will depend on our race - and after Sunday we will know," he said.

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