The most under rated story in marathon season so far is Kenenisa Bekele. Just how will the World Record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m fare on the streets of the City of Light on Sunday? That, dear friends, is why your favorite observer is hanging in Paris.
We have spoken about how fast Kenenisa Bekele will run this weekend. We have spoken about if he will win. We have spoken about how someone can not run a two hour marathon today.
We have forgotten one topic: Pride.
Pride is why Kenenisa Bekele is running in Paris. Pride is why Kenenisa Bekele should run well on Sunday in Paris. And pride is why, Kenenisa Bekele will run as long he truly desires to race at the elite level.
Kenenisa Bekele, and his fans, Scotland, 2008, World Cross,
photo by PhotoRun.net
So, the story is told, by several sources, that, several years ago, Kenenisa Bekele, at the top of his athletic powers, was offered a phenomenal offer, from the London marathon, to run his debut marathon. Bekele turned it down, not wanting to move up to 26.2 miles from 10,000 meters, where he was doing quite well, thank you.
Move forward to about a year ago. After three years of on again, off again performances, Kenenisa Bekele had a fine one: he defeated Mo Farah at the BUPA Great North Run in September 2013, and his career was back! Look at Kenenisa's facial expressions at the BUPA run, after his victory. He is practically animated!
Understand the London marathon's Mr. Bedford. Managers and agents tell this writer that David Bedford can cite talent a mile away, knows how to develop marathon field depth like no one else, and when he makes an offer, it is a respectable offer, for the day, the performer and Mr. Bedford's needs. Oh, and Mr. Bedford does not negotiate. Behind that trademarked droopy mustache lies a major brain for sports marketing.
In 2014, David Bedford has Mo Farah. The half marathon run by Mr. Farah in last year's Virgin garnered the Virgin London marathon millions of pounds Sterling of publicity. Rumors were afloat that Mo Farah made one million pounds for his half marathon run. That was just plain silly. More than likely, Mr. Bedford made a deal including the half and the full marathon. The publicity alone, Mo Farah debuting in 2014, made whatever he paid all worth it. Remember, David Bedford's job is to develop elite fields, to add stature and depth to the Virgin London Marathon. One can over develop a field as well. In 2014, that is just not the case, as the story is about two things: Mo Farah and the elite athletes who want a piece of him, and will do their best to leave his exhausted body on the London course. My guess is that Mr. Farah and his coach, Alberto Salazar, have considered that, and have plans to challenge those challenges. But, I have digressed.
So, how much did London need Kenenisa Bekele for his debut? Not, really.
Sources told RunBlogRun that the offer for Mr. Bekele in 2014 was no where like the previous debut offer, and Kenenisa was, well offended. Was Bekele the ghost of his past? His pride was hurt. Hence, Kenenisa Bekele took a very nice offer from Paris and began to focus on his training.
If you do not think that every day, this past winter, as Kenenisa Bekele pounded out 150 miles to 160 miles (250k) a week, with 25k runs with 3 minute kilometers thrown in for callousing and long runs of 40-45 kilometers, he thought of how running well in Paris would make London look foolish, then one does not understand what makes elite runners tick. And perhaps, one does not understand the simplicities of the human condition. Kenenisa Bekele is a tough runner, he is also human. In 2012, I interviewed Kenenisa at the Nike Pre, and Mr. Bekele told me that he was trying to race himself into shape. It was a very hard season that year.
Kenenisa Bekele is a sports warrior. It is why he holds the world records for 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. A recent story showed up that Jos Hermans noted that Kenenisa and Haile G did not especially get along. So what? Bekele respected Gebrselassie and vice-versa. They probably did not hold hands, they raced twenty-five laps at bone chilling pace and tried to break each other, physically and mentally, into tiny little pieces. And that is why, you love watching those races!
A few years ago, Ian Stewart encouraged me to come to the Birmingham Indoor. He wanted me to see Bekele close up, racing two miles indoors. Watching the man run two miles, with the second mile, in about 4:01, was mesmerizing. Kenenisa Bekele drove himself around the track like no one else I had ever seen. It was beautiful and frightening at the same time.
Remember a time in your life when you were really fit? The races seemed worry-free and your times plummeted. To get to that level takes time and focus. For someone like Kenenisa Bekele, racing at the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris is a testament to his career. Bekele has loved being the best distance runner in the world. When he lost his form, it must have been frustrating. Only Kenenisa Bekele, and perhaps, Jos Hermans, his manager, knows the minute differences when Kenenisa is on and when, he is just about there. From the expressions on Mr. Hermans' face and Mr. Bekele's faces at Friday's press conference: Kenenisa Bekele is back, and in perhaps his best long distance form ever.
From the press conference on Friday, it seems that Kenenisa Bekele has trained well, and god willing, will race well on Sunday, April 6 in the Marathon de Paris.
And, I am not sure if David Bedford did not do Kenenisa Bekele a favor.
Hear me out.
Mr. Bedford and his mustache, photo by PhotoRun.net
Years ago, hell, decades ago, when I was racing, a good friend told me that perhaps I did not have what it took to break 34 minutes for the 10,000m. That winter I trained like a madman, and all spring did my training, so when the one time came that season, I not only broke 34 minutes, I ran in the 32 minute range, which was good for me. For me, that was a big performance. I remember when I took the results, cut out of the newspaper, to my buddy, Gary. He smiled and told me, all I needed was a bit of motivation. I finally had gotten why he did that. He could not get me to challenge myself until he challenged my pride.
For Kenenisa Bekele to race well in the Marathon de Paris, he needed motivation. Mr. Bedford may have been the instigator. Jos Hermans, the manager for Mr. Bekele, just encouraged the training and found the perfect race for Kenenisa Bekele: the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris.
We shall only have to wait and see for twenty-four hours.
My prediction: Kenenisa Bekele for the win and mid 2:05 debut, without winds. With winds, a low 2:06. But, Kenenisa Bekele will run well in the City of Lights on Sunday, April 6, 2014.
He has his pride to defend.