CHICAGO -- Like many first timers, Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele believes he over-trained for his marathon debut earlier this year in Paris, where he set a new course record of 2:05:04. Coach Renato Canova already believes Bekele is the “ideal marathoner” and could challenge the world record in his third shot at the distance. Bekele is a little more reserved.
“To put me on top is not the time now,” said Bekele, speaking at a press conference ahead of this weekend's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. “I need to run faster times.”
Bekele’s transition from the track to the marathon has been a success. Meanwhile, double Olympic and World Champion Mo Farah struggled in his first shot at the distance.
“It could be our different body types. Farah started achieving good results at the age of 27 or 28. If you come to me, I started achieving when I was 19 or 18,” Bekele said. “He’s only run one race, so we can’t judge him
Bekele holds a 13-4 record over Farah in head-to-head match-ups. When asked if he would want to race Farah over the marathon distance, he replied with certainty.
“Of course,” Bekele said. “If there is a possibility to do it, I’m happy to race him.”
Farah does not plan on racing another marathon until after the 2016 Olympics, but Bekele has not yet closed the door on his track career and the two could meet before then.
“At this moment, I can’t decide whether to run the marathon or 10,000-meters,” Bekele said. “I still have to hit qualification marks against other Ethiopians. It’s not easy. I want to try. If the results go well, anything can change.”
Kipchoge’s crazy workout
Some look at Bekele’s accomplishments and consider him the favorite in Chicago, but one runner told ESPN.com of his visit to Kenya in August, one that left him impressed with Eliud Kipchoge’s strength.
In the August heat of Eldoret, Kipchoge’s training group did 15 mile repeats on Moi Univeristy’s Chepkoilel Campus dirt track. They started off at 4:40 pace and dropped all the way down to 4:20.
The witness said Kipchoge looked like he could have done another 10 miles. Kipchoge was reportedly the strongest of a training group that includes Emmanuel Mutai, who ran 2:03:13 recently in Berlin to finish just behind Dennis Kimetto's new world record of 2:02:57 and also dip below the previous record.
Kipchoge said his training group consistently hits 200 kilometers of running per week.
“The marathon is a challenge to me,” Kipchoge said. “I like running for a long time.”
Bekele and Kipchoge have requested a 61:40 pace through the half-marathon mark. The World Record-setting Berlin Marathon went through the half in 61:45.
132 countries of diversity
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Race Director Tim Maloney and Bank of America’s Tim Maloney met the media on Wednesday morning. Emmanuel welcomed the 45,000 registered runners expected into his city and noted the diversity of such a vast field of runners. The 2013 race had 38,879 people cross the finish line. Another 26,400 finishers this season should put the Chicago Marathon over 650,000 finishers since 1977. In all, 132 countries will be represented in addition to all 50 U.S. states.
Four years later
Friday marked the four year anniversary of the epic finish by Sammy Wanjiru at the 2010 Chicago Marathon. Wanjiru died in 2011 after falling off a balcony at his home in Kenya. He would have just been 27 years old.
In 2011, Wesley Korir dedicated his race to Wanjiru with a prayer on his bib. Amidst all fast times being run, the 2012 Boston Marathon Champion saw untapped potential in Wanjiru.
“The sky was the limit for him,” Korir said. “I think he was an athlete with a lot of potential. I definitely believe he would be up there running with the leaders. At the same time the people breaking the World Records have been focused on running those times from the start.”
New title sponsor for WMM
The World Marathon Majors announced a four-year partnership with Abbott Global as their new title sponsor, beginning in 2015 with the Tokyo Marathon.