Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world-record holder and four-time Virgin Money London Marathon champion, and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathon runner of all time, took part in a socially distanced press conference at the elite athlete hotel today (Wednesday 30 September) in the build-up to their long-awaited head-to-head on Sunday 4 October at The 40th Race.

Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya)

On how Covid-19 affected his training and preparation:

“It was really difficult when I had to train on my own because for 17 years I have been training with six, 10 or 20 people all year round. So it was like an electric shock when I had to train on my own.

“It was hard to get fit and up to a high level of training. But lately we have consolidated a bigger team around me and training has been good.”

On Sunday’s race against Bekele:

“I am feeling well and happy to be back in London to run for my fifth title. I think the race will be a really fruitful one for us on Sunday and a fast race.

“I am very happy to come here and race Kenenisa after such a long time, especially in this time of Covid-19. It will be great to be able to enjoy racing again and bring hope.

“I am really looking forward to it after 11 months and 18 days [of not racing]. I am very happy to be back.

“Sunday will be a different race from [the 1:59 run in] Vienna, of course, but I have shown the way, that to run under two hours is possible. I have done my part for athletics.”

On the looped course and whether a world record is possible:

“I think running laps like this will be OK. We will compete in a good way and get the best result on Sunday. We will be able to access more drinks than normal so that will help.

“But I don’t think the focus will change from normal, we are all doing the same laps with the same pacemakers.”

On the lack of crowd support around the course:

“The crowd plays a massive role in the marathon. Sunday will be difficult because it will have a silent feel. But it’s important people can watch us virtually and stay safe.”

On what pace he expects to run to halfway:

“We will decide in the next two days, but 61 [minutes] would be OK.”

On what he admires most about Bekele:

“I respect his success and mentality, being able to keep training after so much success takes a lot.”

On his message for the 45,000 virtual runners:

“Start, finish, feel it and enjoy it. In spirit we will be running together. We all accept the uncertainty of Covid-19 and together we can rise up and overcome it.”

On whether his Alpha Fly shoes go against the spirit of the sport:

“This is the 21st century and we need to accept change. Development goes hand-in-hand with technology. We need to accept it and marry it.”

Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)

On how Covid-19 affected his training and preparation:

“My preparation was good but because of Covid-19 sometimes it was not as perfect as I had planned.

“It has been really difficult in Africa so it affected us a lot. We tried our best to prepare well and more or less I have prepared well.”

On being able to compete again:

“It’s really good to have a chance to run again. Of course, this is a new course and atmosphere so we never know what will happen on Sunday. But I am happy to be here and be part of it.”

On the looped course and whether a world record is possible:

“It is a new course that no one has run on before so it’s difficult to say if it’s really fast or not, so anything is possible.

“It’s never easy to run on curves for such a long way, you can lose some speed sometimes, so we’ll just have to see on Sunday.”

On the lack of crowd support around the course:

“It is really nice to have crowds around, especially in the marathon. When you are running for two hours without crowds it will be difficult.

“But we know it’s important everyone stays healthy so they need to watch it on TV. It is a bad time for everyone so we all have to accept it.”

On what pace he expects to run to halfway:

“At the moment I am not planning anything, I’m just leaving it to the organisers. But more or less I can guess it’s going to be really fast.

“I’ve never known a slow pace in London, especially when Kipchoge is there. So I know it will be fast from the start on Sunday.”

On what he admires most about Kipchoge:

“We have both been in the sport for a long time and are role models for the younger generation. As an athlete I have great respect for Eliud. What he has done is a great thing for the sport.

“But now we are racing against each other and I am happy to be doing that.”

On his message for the 45,000 virtual runners:

“At this time it’s very important for people to stay healthy, and running helps them to stay healthy and motivated. Soon Covid-19 will end and we’ll see each other again at another race.”