On Sunday, April 18, at 8:30 a.m. local time in the Netherlands (2:30 a.m. EDT), Eliud Kipchoge and a group of about 70 elite runners will compete in the specially-created NN Mission Marathon on an 8 loop course at the Twente Airfield near Enschede, on the far east of the country close to the German border.
The race was originally scheduled for April 11 in Hamburg, but due to changing local Covid-19 restrictions it had to be moved and rescheduled.
This will be Kipchoge’s first marathon since he shocked the world by appearing human at last October’s elite-only London Marathon. That race was supposed to be a showdown between Kipchoge and Ethiopian rival, 2:01:42 marathoner Kenenisa Bekele, but Bekele had to withdraw two days before the race due to lingering injury. Not only was Bekele absent, but Kipchoge suffered a “blocked ear” and faded to 8th, his first defeat at the distance since 2013, breaking a string of 10 consecutive major marathon victories.
Whatever else his motivation in this race, returning to first is surely high on the list and prove to everyone, and himself, that the London was a fluke, not a signal of change. The best of the rest of the field have PRs five minutes slower than Kipchoge, but among them is the 2012 Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich.
Kipchoge isn’t making any big promises. In a Friday press conference, Kipchoge said, “Sunday, I personally will be running a very beautiful race — I call it beautiful because we have had a tough time during the pandemic. I want to run a beautiful race to show the world actually that we are on a huge transition toward our great future again. That’s my aim.”
The majority of the men’s and women’s field will be using the opportunity to set a qualifying time for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games (2:11:30 men; 2:29:30 women).