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Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie and Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei will race the Valencia Marathon in December 2023. This race, between these two incredible athletes, may turn out to be one of the sport’s all-time great rivalries — opportunity knocks.
Where opportunity was lost to create a great rivalry reminiscent of the Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie show, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenise Bekele never properly faced off in the marathon. Each sought big-time-trial-like paydays. That ship has sailed.
Full elite fields for the #ValenciaMarathon on 3 Dec were announced today.— David Monti 🥑 (@d9monti) September 29, 2023
"in a pre-Olympic year, the Valencia Marathon represents the strongest event in the world," said elite athlete coordinator, @marcroigtio.
Athletes still looking for #Paris2024 qualifying marks. pic.twitter.com/vKKl5GjTvI
Cheptegei holds world records in the 5000m and 10,000m events having run as fast as 12:35.36 and 26:11.00, respectively. He holds national records on the roads in the 5K and 10K and a world best in the 15K road run at 41:05. In 2020, the 27-year-old clocked an international-level half-marathon in 59:21 in Poland where he won the World Half Marathon Championships.
Cheptegei earned gold and silver medals during the Tokyo Olympic Games in the 5000m and 10,000m events. He is a four-time World Athletics Championships gold medallist. His resume is one of the best in distance running.
Kandie is back after running injuries sidelined him for a while. Kandie holds the national record in the half-marathon at 57:32, which he ran in Valencia three years ago. While Cheptegei will debut in the marathon Kandie ran New York in 2021 in a sub-par performance of 2:13:43. He will want to greatly improve his marathon personal best. The two have faced off finishing 1-2 in Gdynia, Poland at the World Half Marathon Championships and finishing in second and fifth place at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia. For the two 27-year-olds, the rivalry is real.
Potential marathon world records
Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum is expected to challenge Eliud Kipchoge’s world record in the marathon which sits at 2:01:09. The weather in Chicago for Sunday, October 8 needs to play along. Often wind is a factor there. Kiptum barged onto the international marathon scene in December 2022 clocking a 2:01:53 debut — by far, the fastest debut ever. The 23-year-old went on to win the London Marathon in April going even faster with a 2:01:25 win. If Kiptum does not break the world record in Chicago, Cheptegei or Kandie may in December.
Having three athletes run 2:01s, Bekele (2:01:41, Kipchoge 2:01:09 and Kiptum 2:01:25) would have been considered crazy talk just a few years ago. Two more may just be added to the list come December.
But, at the end of the day, spectators would prefer to watch great rivalries unfold and battle it out over time trial-like efforts where essentially a single athlete battles the clock.