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MUTWIRI MUTUOTA

Clear your diaries for October 12! The ‘anointed’ Sunday is the date when one of the most enduring rivalries in athletics will once again take centre stage for a potentially gripping chapter when Chicago hosts her famous city marathon. 

Incubated in 2003 World Championships in Paris in the men 5000m final, any Eliud Kipchoge versus Ethiopian titan Kenenisa Bekele showdown has begotten some epic contests across the distances in cross country, track and road races. 

The Kenyan who stunned the then rising Ethiopian sensation for the world title and his fierce rival has gone head-to-head more than a dozen times in their careers since. 

The World Marathon Majors, IAAF Gold Label Chicago Marathon is the grand stage for their first ever meeting over the classic distance; the ultimate test of man over 42.162Km and despite a loaded field out to the steal headlines, the spotlight will be firmly fixed on the two icons –win or lose, the story will be about them. 

While Kenenisa has constructed a custom made tartan track in Sululta Valley on the outskirts of Addis Ababa in his native Ethiopia, Kipchoge has been preparing for the face-off in the foothills of Kaptagat Forest for his long run and hill work outs with the modest murram track at Chepkoilel Campus used for his speed-work regimen. 

In March, Kenenisa ran 2:05:04 for his marathon debut in winning at Paris to join Kipchoge who made the step up last year also in victory (2:05:30) on his maiden attempt at the distance in Hamburg. 

It was a no brainer when organisers of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon decided to sell their race with two of the most respected, long lasting and decorated distance runners. 

While the Ethiopian has held sway in most of the races they battled, famously at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where he forced him to accept the second medal in the men 5000m final, Kipchoge comes to Chicago with more experience in marathon running. 

Since Hamburg, he ran his 2:04:05 career best in Berlin to follow home Wilson Kipsang’s 2:03:38 world record in September after adding the Hamburg crown (2:05:30) in April. 

This season, his third marathon victory of 2:05 dead was recorded in Rotterdam on April 13, a week after Kenenisa won in Paris. Despite the hype, Kipchoge is not focused on the challenge of mowing Kenenisa. He is aiming at continuing his majestic transition into the marathon having been declared by most as a washout after bombing at the 2012 Olympics Trials in the men 5000m final. 

“Marathon is different from track running. I know everybody will be aiming to win and that’s also what I will be aiming to do. “I will run my best and will be happy if I will win. As for Kenenisa Bekele, I am not going to Chicago marathon to compete against him, but rather to run my own race,” Kipchoge told RunBlogRun. 

After his London Olympics Trials nightmare, the 2003 World champion in 5000m re-surfaced in Kenyan colours at that year’s World Half Marathon Championships in Karvana, Bulgaria where he recorded a sixth finish. 

But anyone who thought he would be a blot in athletics history had not reckoned with his re-invention as one of the most promising marathoners of our time. 

Victory in Chicago will go a long way in establishing him as a force on the elite World Marathon Majors circuit but he has the huge scalp of Kenenisa to stop. 

Both who have never shied from speed will be chasing the clock in an attempt to break defending champion, Dennis Kimetto’s course record of 2:03:45.

Courtesy of standardmedia.co.ke

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