Kenenisa Bekele, widely touted as the world’s greatest distance runner, and as the most likely challenger of Eliud Kipchoge’s new world record of 2:01:39 at Sunday’s TCS Amsterdam Marathon, shocked the running world by dropping out less than a mile from the finish line, leaving the course and walking back to his hotel. Exactly why he DNF’d so close to the finish is still a mystery.
According to LetsRun.com, Bekele ran with the leaders early in the race, splitting 21.1K in 62:12. And he was still in the lead at 29.5K after the last pacer dropped out.
On Monday the site published footage of Bekele’s agent pulling alongside him and giving him instructions of some kind, sometime between 29.5K and 31K, shortly after which Bekele fell off the lead, and reports that the agent, Jos Hermens, claimed he was telling them their pace and to keep pushing now that the pacers were out.
Hermens further claimed that Bekele had a hip injury caused by a small accident in training about three weeks ago, that was causing him to slow down, and it wasn’t worth a poor result. There is footage of Bekele leaving the course, his head low, but he does not appear to be limping. The site claims he was still on pace for a 2:07:14 finish at the 40K mark. Not a world record, by a long shot, but hardly disgraceful.
Today, there are reports that Hermens has thrown Bekele under the bus, so to speak, praising his extreme talent while criticizing his work ethic and contrasting his training habits with those of Kipchoge, even going so far as to speculate that Bekele has some kind of learning disability.
Hermens is an unusual character. He was Haile Gebrselassie‘s agent when Gebrselassie announced his retirement after his disastrous TCS New York City Marathon in 2010 (dropping out of the race at 26K) and then changed his mind. Hermens told the New York Times Gebrselassie was under pressure from the Ethiopian government and that his phone was being tapped, then denied that he’d said any such thing.