Can Kenenisa Bekele break the world record for the marathon in Berlin? “He’s in perfect shape now… I think so”, says his trainer

By Jonathan Gault
September 23, 2021

Kenenisa Bekele participates in the Berlin Marathon on Sunday.

Bekele is 39 years old. He hasn’t run a marathon for two years. he did not run all run, period, in 18 months. It has accumulated so much DNF and DNS over the past seven years that it’s hard to keep track.

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He is also the greatest long-distance runner of all time. And Berlin is the site of some of its greatest triumphs. There he won the 5k / 10k double at the 2009 Worlds. In 2016, snubbed by the Ethiopian Olympic coaches, he entered the Berlin marathon and won in 2:03:03, missing the world record by six seconds. . Three years later, when many thought his career was over, he got even closer, his time winning by 2:01:41 just two seconds behind Eliud Kipchogeworld record of.

We watch sports because they are unpredictable and because they provide an opportunity to witness greatness. And that’s why I’ll wake up at 4am on Sunday to watch Bekele live in Berlin (Editor’s note: the race starts at 3.15am ET but Jonathan agrees to miss the first 45 minutes). His long-time agent Jos hermens sums it up best.

“It’s Kenenisa Bekele,” Hermens says. “So you never know.”

Two years ago, Bekele spent two months of his accumulation in Berlin at Nijmegen, the headquarters of the global sports communication agency Hermens in the Netherlands, where he received dietary advice for weight loss and practical treatment. from a physiotherapist. Peter Eemers. Bekele did the same in 2021, although his stay in the Netherlands was slightly shorter (around five to six weeks) before returning to Addis Ababa for the final two months of its construction in Berlin.

Hermens says everything went well, although the build-up was a bit shorter than ideal. This is one of the reasons why Bekele hasn’t organized any sort of tune-up race this year.

“We needed all our time to prepare it in Berlin,” says Hermens. “We didn’t have time to do a half marathon. How much are you tapering? How much do you train afterwards? The trip. There was not [many races] continues anyway.

Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:39 is the obvious goal that has motivated Bekele since his marathon entry in 2014. But Hermens didn’t want to make far-fetched predictions. He takes a cautious approach to Berlin, as the past 12 months have been difficult for Bekele. He was forced to withdraw from last year’s London Marathon at the last minute due to a calf injury suffered in his last difficult session, then contracted COVID in the summer of 2021. Hermens wants just make sure that his client has the opportunity to do what he loves to do on Sundays: running.

“He’s in good shape, he’s ready to run fast,” says Hermens. “How fast, we have to see Sunday – the conditions, the competition, everything. Personally, I’m happy that he’s here and that he’s fit and healthy at the start line. At the moment he is disciplined and he is very anxious to show something more the next few years, knowing that he is getting older. I like his attitude right now, it’s good.


Hermens may be downplaying expectations, but in Ethiopia the hype is mounting. Thursday, the Ethiopian photographer Aman Ahmed quoted Bekele’s coach Haji Adilo as saying that Bekele was going to break the world record in Berlin. So expert in Ethiopian running Michael crawley, author of the excellent From nowhere, expressed equally optimistic feelings.

So I contacted Adilo myself earlier today and he confirmed that Bekele was in very good shape.

“He’s in perfect shape now,” said Adilo. “His progress is very good.

How does its form compare to that before Berlin in 2019?

“It’s the same as in 2019,” says Adilo. “A little…”

Bekele narrowly missed the WR on his last trip to Berlin (SCC EVENTS / Norbert Wilhelmi)

He pauses. It’s here. I expect Adilo to say “a little worse” or that a last minute injury or other issue has occurred.

“It’s the same,” he continues. “A little… better now, I think.”

Just a reminder: 2019 Bekele ran 2:01:41 in Berlin.

Adilo goes on to say that Bekele’s health is “very good”, that his concentration is better than it was before Berlin two years ago. He knows how close he was to the world record and doesn’t want to leave anything to chance this time around. The goal, Adilo told me, is the world record.

Do you think this is possible?

“Ahhhhhhh,” said Adilo, prolonging the suspense as long as possible. “Ah ah ah ah ah ah. I think so.”


So there you have it, two points of view on Bekele ahead of Sunday’s race. Statistics say Bekele’s fast marathons are rare these days. Since the start of 2017, Bekele has signed for eight of them, knocked out two, dropped three and finished three. Of these three arrivals, one was unimpressive (2:08:53 for the 6th in London 2018), one was good (2:05:57 for the 2nd in London 2017) and one was from another world ( 2:01:41 victory at 2019 Berlin). There are plenty of reasons to doubt him.

Yet there are also reasons to believe. If what Adilo says about Bekele is true. If Bekele can summon another Lazarus-like effort in Berlin, as he did in 2016 and again in 2019. And if the weather – with a maximum of 75 it will be hotter in Berlin – can cooperate on Sunday .

You can choose your side, pessimist or optimist, but the truth is, no one knows how Sunday will turn out. Not even Bekele. This is why we are watching.

“You don’t know how you’re going to feel after 30 km,” says Hermens. “That’s the beauty of running, especially marathon racing.”

What do you think of Bekele’s chances in Berlin? Tell us on our world famous fan forum / bulletin board: Mo: Set your alarm clocks now. Bekele’s coach: “He’s in perfect shape now… I think [he can break the WR]. “

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