Bekele eyes marathon world record, Tokyo Olympics

The Ethiopian believes it would be possible to go below the two-hour mark to set a world record in marathon.

Kenenisa Bekele at a TSK 25K build-up event in Kolkata on Friday. Photo: Special Arrangement

Kenenisa Bekele, the world record holder in 5,000m and 10,000m, is determined to set a new world record in marathon before ending his illustrious career in athletics.

Bekele, 35, is also targeting to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to make up for the five years he lost due to injuries. “My target is not only the world record, but also participation in the Tokyo Olympics marathon. With my age, it is challenging. I need to be fit and healthy for it,” said Bekele in a select media interaction here on Friday.

Bekele, who would compete in the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K race on Sunday, said it would be possible to go below the two-hour mark to set a world record in marathon. “A 2:01 is achievable. A sub-two-hour mark is possible in good conditions and with the back-up of a good medical team and sponsors. By Tokyo, the world record can be broken twice,” Bekele said with his usual cool and confident demeanour.

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The current marathon world record of 2:02:57, set in Berlin in 2014, is held by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto.

‘Shift not difficult’

Bekele, who won the 5,000m and 10,000m titles in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 Berlin World championship, clocked 2:05:03 in his marathon debut in Paris in 2014 and achieved his personal best of 2:03:03 two years later in the Berlin marathon.

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Looking back at his switch to marathon, Bekele said, “I was not interested in doing marathon. I missed the races for five-six years due to injuries. It was tough to come back to high speed running, so I had no option (but to shift to marathon). The shift is not really difficult. You need to train longer and adapt. I changed my style only 10 to 15 per cent to adjust to marathon. You have to run longer and build your endurance to race for two hours. You have to decrease the speed and increase the distance. As I was coming back from injuries, my time was not good when I switched.”

Asked how the contest between him and Mo Farah - the multiple World and Olympic gold medal winning British runner in 5000m and 10,000m - would have been had they run together, Bekele said, “When I was injured, Mo became a strong athlete. Had I joined him, it would have been a big competition. I am happy that he is joining marathon.”