Coronavirus pandemic

London Marathon face-off still likely

LONDON • The mass participation London Marathon has been cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but an elite-only race featuring a showdown "duel" between distance stars Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele may still be staged on Oct 4, the British media said yesterday.

The annual race, which normally attracts almost 40,000 runners and raises millions of pounds for charity, was originally pushed back from April.

But the ongoing complications caused by the coronavirus crisis, not least the potential infection risk caused by hundreds of thousands of fans lining the route through central London, meant that hosting it was impracticable.

Four of the six World Marathon Majors - Boston, Berlin, New York and Chicago - have already been cancelled and though London always looked likely to join them, race director Hugh Brasher tried to leave the decision as late as possible.

Tokyo was converted into an elite runners-only event at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in early March.

While huge crowds normally associated with London will not happen this year, Kipchoge, who holds the world record in the marathon at 2hr 1min 39sec, and Bekele, who owns the world record in both the 5,000m and 10,000m, have reportedly been invited to take part in a multi-lap course in and around a central London park.

The circuit will be a short loop, with controlled access to limit fan numbers, but the presence of the only two men who have ever gone under two hours, two minutes for the 42.195km marathon should still be a draw should organisers be able to pull it off.

The 35-year-old defending champion Kipchoge, who became the first man to run a sub two-hour marathon in an unofficial race in Vienna last October, is seeking a record fifth London title.

The Kenyan has won 11 of the 12 marathons he has started, including at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Ethiopian Bekele, who is three years older, has won three Olympic and five world championship golds over 5,000m and 10,000m, as well as 11 cross-country world championship golds.

He clocked 2:01:41 in Berlin last October to miss Kipchoge's mark by two seconds. The official cancellation announcement was not available at press time.

  • Oct 4

  • Date of an elite-only race in London, on a short loop on a fan-restricted circuit and featuring Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2020, with the headline 'London Marathon face-off still likely'. Print Edition | Subscribe