The great Kenya-Ethiopia battle in London didn’t die with Bekele’s withdrawal, Geremew is a serious threat

"I always tell people that it is a really simple deal. Work hard. If you work hard and follow what's required and set your priorities right, then you can really perform without taking shortcuts. If you are taking shortcuts, you can't be free." - Eliud Kipchoge

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Mosinet Geremew ran the London Marathon in the time of 2:02:55 in 2019. Sunday, he will take on Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder in a very different set of circumstances for the top-level field that is assembled.

Geremew toiled mostly with the 5,000m and 10,000m distances since about 2011. He was good but often ran the latter in the 28s and the former in the 13s. His best at Hengelo with the right competitors got him down to 27:18.86 in 2015. He has a 5,000m best of 13:17.41 and a half-marathon record of 59:11. He ran that half-marathon in Delhi, India in 2015.

Eliud Kipchoge KEN, at the Iffley road running track on the 30th April 2019. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for london marathon events

We all know what Eliud Kipchoge has done – everything! His 2:01:39 in Berlin two years ago is the world record, he has run under two hours in an unofficial marathon. He has won eight “major” marathons as well as gold medals in the World Athletics Championships and Olympic Games. He is often referred to as the GOAT (greatest of all-time) and Buddha. He is known to coin motivational phrases like, “only the disciplined ones are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and passions.”

“Athletics is not so much about the legs, it is about the heart and the mind.”

He is a beacon of light against the bleak doping shroud that has enveloped his country. Currently, approximately 55 Kenyan athletes are ineligable to compete due to doping or repeated missed tests or Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) anomolies.

“I always tell people that it is a really simple deal. Work hard. If you work hard and follow what’s required and set your priorities right, then you can really perform without taking shortcuts. If you are taking shortcuts, you can’t be free.”

The Buddha of running has spoken.

Does the race change for Kipchoge?

Kenenisa Bekele dropped out due to apparent calf issues. He has run pretty much just as fast as Kipchoge 2:01:41 in conditions that were not as favourable as Kipchoge’s 2:01:39 was run in, Berlin 2018 vs Berlin 2019, respectively.

Of course Bekele ran those two massive world records in the 5,000m and 10,000m distances and won all of those World Cross Country Championships, eleven total.

The 1.8K (+/-) loop in St. James Park has several corners. The rain will be falling with a 100% certainty according to forecasters and the wind will whip around a little faster than the runners will be moving at 27kph. The silver lining is that the wind will be at the back as much as it will be at the front of the athletes. However, it will take discipline after 35K or so to continue to run circles to the end, especially if the pace or the mano-a-mano race is a struggle.

Who is this Mosinet Geremew?

What if Kipchoge isn’t running sub-2:02 pace for some reason; finally has an off day? Will Geremew dig deeper than he ever has before to make a race of it? For Geremew, winning London 2020 will be an athletics coup. You can bet that if he is within a minute of Kipchoge, he will.

Mosinet Geremew. Photo credit: World Athletics

The 28-year-old is seven years younger and has finished second enough times, he is likely very ready to take the next step. His notable second-place performances including the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships (marathon), London 2019, and the Chicago Marathon the year prior.

Over the past three years, he has progressed from 2:06:11 in 2017 to 2:04:00 in 2018, and then there is that 2:02:55. What has he got for London in the rain tomorrow?

That 2:02:55 was only 18 seconds behind Kipchoge in London. He is the fourth-fastest man in history behind Kipchoge (twice), Bekele, and countryman Birhanu Legesse.

Geremew may just challenge Kipchoge on the wets streets of London.

SHOESTRINGS: Seemingly under the radar is world record holder Brigid Kosgei 2:14:04 (Chicago 2019), who may run unchallenged. However, there is a handful of 2:20-ish women who could make the race interesting.