The Titans Speak: Kipchoge and Bekele Ready to Battle Sunday in Chicago

October 11, 2014

Sunday’s highly anticipated Bank of America Chicago Marathon is nearly here. (Read our men’s preview here).

On Friday the men’s top pros including the favorites Kenenisa Bekele (most credentialed track runner ever) and Eliud Kipchoge (former World 5000m champion) addressed the media. We focus on Bekele and Kipchoge below and 2012 Boston Champ Wesley Korir. In a separate piece we talked to some of the main contenders to Bekele and Kipchoge, Tadese Tola, Feyisa Lilesa, Bernard Koech and Dickson Chumba. Also we talked to the Hansons Brooks runners Bobby Curtis and Jake Riley, to American Christo Landry about his 32 mile long runs, and to Bekele about his thoughts on the sub 2 hour marathon.

Both Bekele and Kipchoge were relaxed and looking forward to Sunday’s battle.

1:01:40 for Halfway in Chicago is FASTER Than What they hit in Berlin

The plan is for the rabbits to go out in 1:01:40 for half-way in Chicago which although slower than the pace needed for a world record (the world record is 2:02:57 which would be a 1:01:28 split), is actually faster than the 1:01:45 halfway split that the leaders hit in Berlin two weeks ago when the world record was set.

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Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge

Everyone this week has talked like the world record is not on the table here, but if two of the world’s best track runners ever split 1:01:40 half-way, the world record can not be ruled out. Officially the talk has been about beating the much more reasonable course record of 2:03:45 for which there is a $75,000 bonus for breaking.

One of the rabbits will be Tariku Bekele, Kenenisa’s brother and training partner. Jos Hermens, Kenenisa’s agent, said the hope is one of the three rabbits can make it 30k, but it won’t be easy at that pace.

As for the race itself, Hermens stated matter of factly, “He (Bekele)’s not the favorite” and also said, “The goal is to win and get more experience in his second marathon.”

Bekele has learned a few things from his first marathon in Paris where he felt he overtrained and suffered cramps around 27km. Bekele said he has backed off his mileage from 180-200km (111-124 miles) a week for his debut in Paris to 160-180km (99-111 miles) a week for Chicago. Most importantly the injuries that plagued him during the last few years of his track career are gone.

Kipchoge seemed to relish taking on his nemesis Bekele, who has beaten Kipchoge in 12 of their 15 lifetime meetings. When asked how he would do Kipchoge smiled and said, “It will be a good competition.”

Kipchoge has only run three marathons and this will be Bekele’s second. When asked who would win in a kick between the two at the end of the marathon, Kipchoge wisely said, “The stronger one will win.” He said he has “no complaints” about his training under coach and former steeplechaser Patrick Sang, that he has been training better than ever, and that some of his training partners are Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich and now the second fastest marathoner ever Emanuel Mutai.

Eliud Kipchoge Before Chicago

Random tidbits below.

**** #FirstWorldProblems – Fueling & Pacing
One line of questioning this week from LRC has been whether the top pros from Kenya and Ethiopia get less stressed out about the marathon and all its intricacies than Westerners. Americans generally seem more nervous about how they fuel and exactly what pace they run. Christo Landry for example hopes there is a group that takes him through half-way in 1:05:30 instead of the 1:05:00-1:05:30 that Bobby Curtis is thinking about. So we asked Bekele about his sports drink and fueling. He acknowledged that he can not just drink water and it’s important to fuel, but he didn’t know what drink he’d be drinking Sunday. Eliud Kipchoge said he’d be drinking “Powerbar” and we do see there is a Powerbar drink mix.

As for pacing, 2012 Boston Marathon Champion, Wesley Korir, now a member of Parliament in Kenya, and the main subject in a tremendous movie Transcend that was released yesterday, is in this year’s field. Korir only has a 2:06:13 PR. We told him the rabbits were going to go out in 1:01:40 and assumed he might go out at a more modest pace. He just matter of factly confirmed with us they were really going to go 1:01:40 and then indicated he would go out with him.

Korir went to the University of Louisville and we asked him about the Kenyan mindset vs the American mindset. He acknowledged the different mindsets and said he tries to incorporate both mindsets, the go for broke Kenyan mindset, and the more analytical American mindset. Korir noted that the reason he won Boston in 2012 was because he backed off the pace in the heat, and came from behind to win – which was the American mindset. When he set his PR in Chicago by going for broke with the leaders, that was the Kenyan mindset. When he got fourth place in Boston in 2013 despite only training 35 miles a week, that was the Kenyan mindset.  Korir said for Chicago this year, he has been able to train more, roughly 80 miles a week. That is less than the 100 miles a week when he won Boston, but well more than the 35 miles in 2013 when he was running for parliament. Going with the leaders at 1:01:40, that’s the Kenyan mindset.

**** Bekele Said He “Never” Feels Nervous on the Start Line

Bekele interestingly said he “never” gets nervous on the starting line of races. He said on the starting line he feels “happy”and is trying to “concentrate”. Nerves of steel indeed.

**** Bekele Talks About His Best Workouts Ever

TV commentator Larry Rawson asked Bekele about his best workouts ever. Bekele talked about a few. Bekele mentioned doing 6×400 in 51-52 seconds with 4 minutes rest and doing 3×1200 in 2:52, 2:50 and 2:54 with 5 minutes rest.

**** Bekele’s Longest Run 2:30, Kipchoge’s 42km
Bekele said the longest run he did for Chicago was 2 hours and 30 minutes while Kipchoge said he ran 42km (a marathon). American Christo Landry said he ran 32 miles in preparation.

**** Bekele Doesn’t Rule Out Doing World Champs or Olympics On the Track. Looks Fondly Back to the Golden League
LRC asked Bekele if his track days were over. He was not optimistic about returning to the track but could not rule it out for the World Champs or the Olympics. That got him to reflect favorably to the Golden League, the premiere series of six track meets in the world, that was replaced by the Diamond League, a series of 14 track meets in 2010.

Bekele said, “The Golden League was better than the Diamond League.” He added, “The Diamond League is nothing.” For an athlete of Bekele’s stature that may be true as Bekele won a $333,333 Golden League jackpot in 2009. Diamond League series winners can only win a $40,000 bonus.

Bekele Before Chicago (to see/hear his comments on the 2 hour marathon click here)

More: The Challengers: Tadese Tola, Feyisa Lilesa, Bernard Koech and Dickson Chumba Speak
*LRC 2014 Chicago Men’s Preview
*All Chicago Marathon News
*Bekele Talks Sub 2 Hour Marathon
*What Shoes Are Some of the Pros Wearing in Chicago

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