Nairobi — Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, the two fastest men over the marathon, are coy over their ambitions on trying to lower Kipchoge's world record of 2:01:39 when they line up for the London Marathon on Sunday morning.
Kipchoge set the record while winning the Berlin Marathon in 2018 and Kenenisa came to within two seconds of lowering it whilst winning the same race in the German capital last year.
But, as they prepare to tackle a relatively manageable course in London, the two steered clear of talking about lowering the mark.
The London Marathon will be staged in a bio-secure course at the St. James' Park, running 19.7 times around a 2.2km loop, a course specifically designed due to the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think the race will be beautiful on Sunday. Personally, I am happy to come and race again after a very long time especially during this tough time of the pandemic. But all in all, after the gun everything will be in its own space, but I promise the fans they will enjoy the race," Kipchoge said, steering clear of hitting direct on the issue around the world record.
His nemesis Bekele stated; "At this time it is difficult to say whether it's a fast course or not. But anything is possible if everything goes well. It is not easy running in curves because at some point you lose some speed, but we will see on Sunday."
Kipchoge will be the most experienced running a looped course, having run his Ineos 1:59 challenge in Vienna around the same set up, same as in 2016 when he first attempted a sub-two-hour race at the Monza Formula One track in the Breaking Two project.
But, the Ethiopian multiple Olympic and World Champion in track will be looking to upset the form books with Kipchoge unbeaten in his last 10 marathons.
Overall, Kipchoge and Bekele have duelled on the road four times. They race in Chicago, 2014; London, 2016; Berlin, 2017; and London, 2018. In all those four instances, Kipchoge has come out victorious with utmost ease.
The two have massive respect for each other, also bearing they are under the same management, Global Sports Communication.
"I respect Eliud as an athlete. Both of us are disciplined for a long time and we are role models for many young generations. As an athlete, I have big respect for Eliud. What he did was a great thing for the sport. Still we are racing (against) each other, we are from the same management," Bekele said of Kipchoge.
In response, the world record holder stated; "I respect the humanity, the success and mentality of being able to train and being disciplined despite huge success."
On Sunday, they will meet in a special and different race, one organized almost six months after its initial date and one that will be devoid of fans nor crowd running due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Kipchoge and Bekele admitted it has been tough training during lockdown, but also note that they feel fortunate to race again.
"Running without crowds is difficult. However, it is important everyone stay healthy. They can join by watching on TV. These are bad times for everyone but we can accept," Bekele stated.
Kipchoge added; "Crowds have their own space as far as performance is concerned. They play a massive role especially in marathon. Sunday will be a silent field so it will be a different thing. I urge them (fans) to run virtually and feel like we are together."