World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge has opened up on how the coronavirus pandemic has brought his preparations for 2020 London Marathon to a screeching halt at the 11th hour.
Kipchoge, who became the first man to run the marathon under two hours last year in a feat dubbed "Ineos 1:59 Challenge" in Vienna, Austria, on Friday told Nation Sport that he was almost done with his preparations for the London Marathon when coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing organisers to cancel the race.
The London Marathon which had been planned for April 26, will now be held on October 4. Also in the line-up for this year's race was Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele who missed the world record by two seconds when he won the Berlin Marathon last year.
Other Kenyan athletes who were scheduled to compete in London Marathon include 2016 Mumbai Marathon champion Gideon Kipketer, Amsterdam Marathon champion Vincent Kipchumba and Rotterdam Marathon champion Marius Kipserem.
Kipchoge also said that he has since scaled down his training programme and reduced the work load even as he stays fit and focused.
The athlete regards Global Sports Communication Camp in Kaptagat, Elgeyo Marakwet County as his second home. He often stays at the camp during training, often for a whole week.
"We closed camp and I have been training individually, which required that I reduce my work load and at the same time keep fit and focussed on the next period of time after the virus has been contained," he said.
The Olympics marathon champion, who was also seeking to defend his title this year before the Olympics Games were postponed to next year, also said that what matters to him now is his own safety and that of his family.
"At the moment, the safety of my family is paramount. That is why we are keeping safe as we see how things unfold regarding the virus. It has affected everyone around the world and the only solution is to follow guidelines set by the government," added Kipchoge.
He further said that the break created by the virus will see athletes come back strong to register faster times compared to last season.
"Many athletes may have taken a break from training but they are training individually, however the virus will not slow down the athletes because they will come back stronger," said Kipchoge.
Concerning countries worst hit by coronavirus, Kipchoge asked those affected to observe self-discipline and to follow safety measures provided by their governments.
"I would like to ask those who are in the countries hit by the pandemic to follow safety measures from their various governments and at the same time they should observe self-discipline to contain the deadly virus," he said.
He has asked Kenyans to be more vigilant and follow directives from president Uhuru Kenyatta and the Ministry of Health as one way of stopping the spread of the virus in the country.
"With the few cases reported in the country, I would like to urge Kenyans to be more responsible. We need to beat the virus and that's the only way to survive the pandemic," he said.
He urged the athletes to continue training individually and to avoid crowding ahead of the next season. Kipchoge set a world record of 2 hours, 01 minute and 39 seconds on September 16, 2018, at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His run broke the previous world record by one minute and 18 seconds, the greatest improvement over a previous record since 1967.
Kipchoge had been named by Athletics Kenya (AK) as one of the athletes who were to represent Kenya in the Olympics Games in Tokyo.
Others in the team were Boston Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono and World Championships marathon bronze medallist Amos Kipruto. Athletes in the reserve are former World Half Marathon Championships silver medallist Bedan Karoki and Honolulu Marathon champion Titus Ekiru.
The 2020 Olympics Games were postponed to 2021, disrupting athletes' training programmes. Almost all the major sporting events were either cancelled or postponed.
Two major marathon races - Boston and London Marathons - were to be held on April 20 and April 26 respectively. Both have been shifted to next season which starts in September.