Kip­choge and Bekele in world-record duel on su­per-fast Lon­don course

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Athletics - By Jeremy Wil­son

Ath­let­ics chief sports re­porter

Or­gan­is­ers of the Lon­don Marathon have de­signed a su­per-fast elite course for Oc­to­ber’s race that will host a po­ten­tial world-record show­down be­tween Eliud Kip­choge and Ke­nenisa Bekele, the two quick­est marathon run­ners in his­tory.

It fol­lows con­fir­ma­tion that an elite-only race will be staged on a Covid-se­cure loop around St James’s Park that will be re­peated 19.8 times, and that the mass race of 45,000 par­tic­i­pants will take place vir­tu­ally, over any route in the world of an en­trant’s choos­ing.

Kip­choge, who be­came the first marathon run­ner to beat two hours in Vi­enna last year, will have the chance to go for that land­mark again on a course that would count as an of­fi­cial world record, and was also se­ri­ously con­sid­ered for his “1.59 chal­lenge”.

Ev­ery run­ner who has en­tered will still be given a num­ber and race app, which will al­low them to se­lect a route of their choice to com­plete the 26.2mile dis­tance.

Un­cer­tainty about the coro­n­avirus means that it has also been de­cided to stage next year’s race, which will be around the usual course, in Oc­to­ber rather than April.

The elite race this year will still fin­ish on The Mall and will pro­vide elite ath­letes with a chance to clock

a qual­i­fi­ca­tion time for the Tokyo Olympics. With no Lon­don Marathon next year be­fore the resched­uled Games, UK Ath­let­ics will also have to de­cide whether to stage a sep­a­rate tri­als race.

“It’s a very fast course,” said Hugh Brasher, the race di­rec­tor. “Lon­don Marathon Events were part of the or­gan­is­ing team as well for the 1.59 Kip­choge Chal­lenge. We did a huge amount of work on as­sess­ing ev­ery sin­gle course. So what we do know is that the course is faster than the cur­rent Lon­don marathon course.”

As well as Kip­choge and Bekele, whose per­sonal best times are sep­a­rated by only two sec­onds, the women’s world record holder, Brigid Kos­gei, is con­firmed for the women’s race, while David Weir, the eight-time win­ner, will take part in the men’s wheel­chair race.

Ex­act num­bers for the elite race are still to be de­cided, as well as prize money, and the pre­cise course de­tails have yet to be pub­lished.

Brasher said that Covid-19 test­ing of ath­letes would be­gin even be­fore they left their own coun­tries to com­pete in Lon­don. With no spec­ta­tors lin­ing the route, there are plans to cre­ate vis­ual and sound ef­fects for the elite run­ners as they race around St James’s Park.

“We want to pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment that ex­cites ath­letes,” said Brasher, who re­peat­edly stressed that ar­range­ments for the mass race would en­sure that peo­ple were to­gether still in “mind and spirit” and that char­i­ta­ble fundrais­ing could be max­imised.

The pan­demic has im­pacted se­ri­ously on char­i­ties, who are cur­rently fac­ing a fund­ing short­fall of £10 bil­lion. The Lon­don Marathon raised £66 mil­lion last year and there is a hope that this year’s unique vir­tual event can again get close to that mark.

“The Lon­don Marathon brings so­ci­ety to­gether in a mo­ment of cel­e­bra­tion of all that is good about hu­man­ity,” Brasher said.

About 750,000 spec­ta­tors usu­ally line the Lon­don streets for the race and the com­plex­ity of those num­bers com­bined with a route that goes through much of east and cen­tral Lon­don was more prob­lem­atic than han­dling the 45,000 run­ners.

Ahead of the pack: How The Tele­graph broke the elite-only race plan on July 28

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