Bekele back as big marathons return

John Bagratuni and Robert SemmlerAAP
Kenenisa Bekele will defend his title as Sunday's Berlin marathon begins a spate of big marathons.
Camera IconKenenisa Bekele will defend his title as Sunday's Berlin marathon begins a spate of big marathons. Credit: AP

Two-time winner Kenenisa Bekele tops the bill as Sunday's Berlin race sets off a six-week marathon frenzy in which the Ethiopian great also plans to run on November 7 in New York.

Some 25,000 runners are set to compete in the German capital, making it the biggest event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

But that figure could be doubled just a week later on October in London where close to 50,000 runners including women's world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya would make it the biggest marathon ever held, according to World Athletics.

Chicago on October 10, Boston a day later, Amsterdam on October 17 and New York on November 7 round off the program after the races fell victim to the pandemic in 2020.

Multiple world and Olympic champion Bekele confirmed on Friday that he plans to undertake the dauting task of running in Berlin and just 42 days later again in New York.

"Both races are different strategies. Berlin I will try a personal best or world record. New York is different also coursewise," he said.

"I have had no race in two years, I want to use this chance, two races in six, seven weeks will be okay."

He missed the world record from by a mere two seconds last time out when he clocked two hours one minute 41 seconds in his 2019 victory.

Whether the 39-year-old can attack Eliud Kipchoge's mark from the 2018 race in Berlin again remains to be seen but that is his target on a course which has seen 11 world records over the classic 42.195-kilometres distance.

"I was not sure two years ago, I just came to try my personal best. This time I am fully confident. I still feel my energy, I don't feel my age, it is a good age for marathon," Bekele said.

Kipchoge himself is absent from all the autumn races as his priority was claiming back-to-back Olympic gold which he achieved in August at the Tokyo Games.

The women's Berlin field is led by Hiwot Gebrekidan, the Ethiopian who ran a world leading 2:19:35 in Milan in spring.

Berlin organizers have said that 90 per cent of the runners should be vaccinated and recovered, with PCR tests mandatory for the others, plus face masks in the start and finish areas for everyone.

Organisers also said that elite runners must fill in a form to confirm that their shoes are according to the rules, a decision to avoid scenes like two weeks ago in Vienna when initial winner Derara Hurisa was disqualified because the sole of his shoes was too thick.

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