LONDON • Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest man in history over the distance, has withdrawn from tomorrow’s London Marathon with a calf injury, ensuring there will be no showdown with world-record holder and long-time rival Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.
Bekele said he picked up the injury after “two fast training sessions too close together”, leaving Kipchoge as an even hotter favourite to win his fifth title here.
The closed-door race – which is open to only 100 elite-level competitors-will be run on a new, multi-lap course at St James’ Park.
“I was in good shape but then, I picked up a niggle in my left calf in the last weeks of preparation,” Bekele said yesterday.
“I have been having treatment every day since then and I truly believed I would be ready but today, it is worse and I now know I cannot race on it.
“This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin (September of) last year gave me great confidence and motivation, and I was looking forward to showing that again.”
Bekele’s time of 2hr 1min 41sec in Berlin was two seconds shy of Kipchoge’s world record set on the same course a year earlier.
“I know many people around the world have been looking forward to this race, and I am sorry to disappoint my fans, the organisers and my fellow competitors.” added the 38-year-old.
“It has been a tough preparation time, with lockdown, when I couldn’t have my team around me. I will take time to recover and become fit again and I hope to be back in London next year.”
Kipchoge, 35, ran 1:59:40 in an unofficial race in Vienna last October – it did not count as a world-record time due to the presence of pacemakers among other conditions.
With Covid-19 wiping out much of the year’s athletics programme, tomorrow would have been their first race for a year, so London Marathon organisers were disappointed to learn the biggest pull for TV viewers could not materialise, but they talked up the quality of the other competitors.
“The world has been waiting to see this head-to-head (clash), but it will now not happen this Sunday,” said race director Hugh Brasher.
“We know how disappointed he (Bekele) is and we wish him a speedy recovery.
“This was never likely to be just a two-man race as we had four of the top-10 fastest marathon runners ever and six men in the field who have broken 2:05, including (Ethiopians) Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun, second and third last year, and 2018 runner-up Shura Kitata.”