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Kenenisa Bekele. Photo: Team NN

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the world fastest man over 5,000 (12:37.35) and 10,000-metres (26:17:53) as well as the second-fast all-time in the marathon (2:03:03) won the Tata Kolkata 25K last Sunday, while not in top-racing form or at his highest level of fitness.

“The race was ok, not extraordinary. Obviously, Kenenisa is not yet in top shape,” Team Manager Jos Hermens told Athletics Illustrated. “We had no high expectations! The course is not bad, but there was quite some pollution.”

The purpose of the race was to fit in some variety, while still in his aerobic training phase.

“[The] Kolkata 25k is good for him to keep him focussed on training, That’s why I try with Team NN and hopefully more teams, to change the timing element a bit,” added Hermens.

Bekele set a new course record of 1:13:49, however, he missed on taking down Kenyan athlete Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 1:11:18.

Interestingly, Bekele has run through 25K from the start of the Berlin Marathon, in the time of 1:12:47.

Asked if perhaps the 25 and 30K distances should be run more often, Hermens said, “I agree, I think the 25 or 30k are extremely interesting, as only full and half marathon running is quite boring and always concentrating on times. In the case of 25k or 30k and also 15k or 10 miles or even 20k, there might or should be less emphasis on times, but more on racing!”

“The 25k is even better than 30k as with the 30k you get closer (too close) to the marathon energy systems!”

Bekele set the second-fastest marathon time (on an eligible course) in September of 2016 in the Berlin Marathon, finishing in the time of 2:03:03. Only Kenyan Dennis Kimetto has run faster, which he accomplished on the same course in 2014 with his performance of 2:02:57. Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai has also run faster, but on the not-eligible Boston route. Mutai finished one second faster during the 2011 edition.

Bekele, now 35, also took the opportunity to confirm that he has no plans to retire in the next year or so.
He still has his sights set on an Olympic medal in the marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to add to the three Olympic gold medals on the track he already has in his collection. “That is the one [medal] missing in my cabinet,” he reflected. If Bekele is successful in Tokyo and wins over the classic distance, he would become the
oldest Olympic marathon gold medallist, an honour currently held by Portugal’s Carlos Lopes who was 37 when he won in 1984.

Hermens himself was a fast runner over the 20K distance setting the world record twice in the one-hour run, accomplishing 20.907 and 20.944k in that time. He also has run 20,000m as fast as 57:24.20, which is equivalent to a 60:33 half-marathon in 1976.

Shoestrings: For running fans who may be interested, Bekele was wearing the Nike Vaporfly, which are purported to provide a performance benefit of anywhere from 2% to 6%.