Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele in action (© Getty Images)
Multiple world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele will clash for the first time with marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang on 18 May at the Great Manchester Run, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
It will be Bekele’s first ever 10km in the UK and it promises to be another classic confrontation on British roads for the 31-year-old, following the Ethiopian’s stunning return to world-beating form at the Bupa Great North Run on Tyneside last September.
It was there that he debuted the 13.1 mile half-marathon distance and claimed the prize scalp of Mo Farah, Britain’s world and Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion, in a thrilling sprint finish. Another Ethiopian all-time great of distance running, Haile Gebrselassie, finished in third place.
Kipsang is also at the top of his game, setting a world record at the Berlin Marathon last September. He ran the classic distance in 2:0323, lopping 15 seconds off the world record figures held by fellow Kenyan Patrick Makau.
“Kenenisa and Wilson have never raced against each other before, so it will be fascinating to see what happens in Manchester on 18 May,” said Peter Riley, elite athlete manager for the Bupa Great Manchester Run.
“Wilson won the Bupa Great North Run in 2012 and was only outkicked by Moses Kipsiro in the Bupa Great Manchester Run a year ago so he has top -class pedigree at the half marathon and 10km. I’ve no doubt he’ll come to Manchester ready to roll again.
“Kenenisa will be running his first marathon in Paris, so it’ll be interesting to see how he runs there, but I’m sure he’ll be in great shape too. It’s great that we’ve got him running his first 10km on the roads in Britain. He’s won the last two Bupa Great Ireland Run 10km races in Dublin.”
Both Bekele and Kipsang have marathon races scheduled for next month; Bekele will be making his debut in Paris on 6 April and Kipsang will run against the debutant Farah in London a week later.
Bekele – whose CV includes world records at 5000m and 10,000m, plus three Olympic gold medals, five world track titles and a record 11 world cross country crowns – has not lost a 10km road race for 12 years. His last defeat came in the Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s biggest road race, back in 2002.
Despite stepping up to the marathon, Bekele maintains he has unfinished business with the 10,000m.
“I want to see how the Paris Marathon goes first but my future dreams are not just about the marathon,” he said. “My career on the track is not over. I want to try one more world record at 10,000m.”
Kipsang’s world record marathon run in Berlin last autumn was the only outdoor global mark in a standard athletics event in 2013. It came four months after the 31-year-old Olympic marathon bronze medallist had come within a whisker of leading home the 40,000 field at the Bupa Great Manchester Run.
In a thriller of a finish, Kipsang was pipped by double Commonwealth champion Moses Kipsiro by a second in 27:52. Gebrselassie finished third that day but the ‘Little Emperor’ is a five-time winner of the Bupa Great Manchester Run, so Bekele will be attempting to follow in famous footsteps when he lines up on Portland Street on 18 May.
Organisers for the IAAF