25 Jan

A Rivalry To Relish?

Eliud Kipchoge upper body shot

The news that living legend runner Eliud Kipchoge is to return to the London Marathon to defend his title against home favourite Mo Farah is refreshing as it is mouth-watering.

The Kenyan is the undisputed greatest male marathon runner of all-time, who has literally done it all over the 26.2mile distance. Olympic gold? Tick. World record? Tick (2:01:39). Unofficial world best time? (2:00:25) Tick. London Marathon? Tick, tick. Berlin Marathon? Tick, tick, tick.

As for Farah, he is the undisputed greatest British athlete of all time. On the track, he’s claimed an unprecedented four Olympic gold, six World Championship gold and five European gold over 5000m and 10,000m.

The full-time step onto the roads was not without its challenges, but late last year in winning Chicago Marathon and breaking the European record, Farah marked himself out as a serious contender over the classic distance.

Their match up in Farah’s hometown has the potential to ignite the type of rivalry that sport thrives on. And one that doesn’t come along very often in running.

The brilliance of both athletes Kipchoge over marathon and Farah on track guarantees them both hall of fame status when they hang up their spikes. But neither have ever been part of an epic rivalry.

Running’s greatest rivalry probably goes back to Seb Coe and Steve Ovett in the late 1970s and early 1980s which attracted global interest. The British middle-distance legends traded world records over 800m, 1500m and mile distances in a golden period, yet avoided racing head to head on the athletics circuit.

The peak of their rivalry came at the 1980 Olympics where Ovett won the 800m and Coe the 1500m, a strangely imperfect, yet contradictorily satisfying outcome that saw each athlete win in the other’s athlete’s favoured event. It was a result that kept the rivalry simmering nicely beyond the Moscow Games towards more world records.

The hope is that Farah and Kipchoge can too ignite something special and take their own endeavours onto unprecedented heights.