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There are eternal debates that rage on regarding who may be the greatest in their respective cultural tidings — the debates may never ebb.

For example, who was the greatest classical composer Bach or Beethoven? In basketball was it Jordan or James? In hockey Gretzky or Orr? How about The Beatles or the Rolling Stones or The artist formerly and currently known as Prince? Or perchance in hip hop is it Eminem, Jay Z, Kanye, Dr. Dre, or Kendrick? There are so many. Or how about the Group of Seven versus Emily Carr from Canada up against Michelangelo or Van Gogh of Europe?

Photo credit: Alberto Stretti

Cultural-anthropogenic debates ensue and make for tremendous — albeit often contentious — arguments.

Joni Mitchell or Dolly Parton or Carole King as the greatest female contemporary or popular music songwriter or what about tennis, is it Martina Navitrolava versus Venus or Serena Williams? Or how about political heroes, is it Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu — okay let’s stop there. Well, we could debate Robin Williams and Dave Chapelle in stand-up comedy.

It’s Jordan, Gretzky, Mitchell, Kendrick, one of the two Williams’s. For the political heroes Mandela and Tutu tie. It shall be The Beatles in popular music and it is of a very biased and arbitrary opinion that Emily Carr wins in painting scenery. And stand-up comedians? Williams wins when you consider his acting chops and impressions. Chapelle’s social commentary is deep though.
Now deciding who is the greatest male long-distance runner may be equally ambivalent. One of them currently enjoys a little more of the spotlight than the other.

Who would you choose between Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya or Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia? 

Let’s take a look at their respective performance data through their respective 17 and 20-year careers.

Bekele is 40 years of age and is racing the 2023 London Marathon on Oct 2, Kipchoge at Berlin last Sunday broke his own world record with a stunning 2:01:09 performance. 

Bekele was to cross-country what Kipchoge is to the marathon. Let the debate commence.


Bekele Kipchoge

Distance ResultWA PointsDistance ResultWA Points
1500m  3:32.3512111500m  3:33.201200
3000m 7:25.7912663000m 7:27.661254
Two miles 8:13.511189Two miles 8:07.68 1223
5000m 12:37.3512945000m 12:46.531259
10,000m 26:17.53129510,000m 26:49.021244
10K 27:49114910K 28:111115
21.1K 60:22117221.1K 59:251210
WA = World Athletics points score for performance rating

International competition

Bekele Kipchoge

World outdoorsWorlds outdoors
World indoorsWorld indoors
World Cross CountryWorld Cross Country
Marathon MajorsMarathon Majors
Missing Commonwealth Games as Ethiopia does not compete, however, Kipchoge does have a CG medal. All-Africa Games are not included


2000m ind.04:50.0WB2000m ind.
Two miles ind.08:04.4AR, NRTwo miles ind.
5000m ind.12:49.6WR5000m ind.
5000m12:37.4*WR, NR5000m
10,000m26:17.4*WR, NR10,000m
WB = world best, *WR = former world record, AR = area record, NR = national record, WR = world record
Both meet and course records are not included, they both have owned several over the years.

By the way Hicham El Gerrouj or John Walker?