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Kipchoge vs. Bekele: Who comes out on top? 

After Kenenisa Bekele shocked the world in Berlin last year, finishing just two seconds off of Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, the question has to be asked: Who’s better?

After Kenenisa Bekele‘s near-record-breaking run in Berlin last year, and in anticipation of Eliud Kipchoge‘s historic 1:59 attempt (which has just been confirmed for this Saturday, October 12 in Vienna), we took a look at two of the greatest runners of all time and compared their individual histories, personal bests and head-to-head records in races. Who do you think is the GOAT?

RELATED: A side-by-side comparison of Kipchoge and Bekele’s Berlin Marathons

At a glance–Kenenisa Bekele

Born: Bekoji, Arsi Zone, Ethiopia on June 13, 1982 (37 years old) 

2004: 10,000m gold, 5,000m silver
2008: 10,000m gold, 5,000m gold
2012: fourth in 10,000m

World Championships:
2003: 10,000m gold, 5,000m bronze
2005: 10,000m gold
2007: 10,000m gold
2009: 10,000m gold, 5,000m gold

World Records: 5,000m (12:37.35, set in 2004) and 10,000m (26:17.53, also set in 2004)

First Marathon: 2014 Paris Marathon (2:05:04)

Keninesa Bekele, right, outkicks Mo Farah at the 2013 Great North Run

At a glance–Eliud Kipchoge 

Born: Kapsisiywa, Nandi District, Kenya on November 5, 1984 (34 years old) 

2004: 5,000m bronze
2008: 5,000m silver
2016: marathon gold

World Championships:
2003: 5,000m gold
2007: 5,000m silver

World Records: Marathon (2:01:39, set in 2018)

First Marathon: 2013 Hamburg Marathon (2:05:30)

Eliud Kipchoge
Eliud Kipchoge (middle) running in Monza, Italy for Nike’s Breaking2 project. Photo: Nike.

Head to Head

Oslo, 2003: Bekele and Kipchoge have raced each other on several occasions across a couple of distances. Their first meeting was at Oslo’s Bislett Games (now a Diamond League event) in 2003 in the 5,000m. Bekele took the win in 12:52.26, just ahead of Kipchoge, who came in third in 12:52.61.

2003 World Championships: The second meeting between the two men occurred later that summer at the World Championships in Paris, once again in the 5,000m. This time, Kipchoge won in 12:52.79 and Bekele crossed the line less than half a second later for the bronze, in 12:53.12.

10,000m at the 2012 London Olympics. Photo: Citizen59 via Wikimedia Commons.


2004 World Cross-Country Championships: In 2004, Kipchoge and Bekele had an off-road meeting in Brussels for the World Cross-Country Championships. Bekele won the race, beating by Kipchoge, who finished fourth, by over 40 seconds.

2004 Athens Olympics: A year after Kipchoge bested Bekele in Paris, the two met in another 5,000m final, this time at the Olympics. Bekele crossed the line ahead of the Kenyan, claiming the silver medal in 13:14.59 compared to Kipchoge’s 13:15.10 bronze medal-winning time.

2005 World Cross-Country Championships: In 2005, the two runners met in another cross-country race, this time in Saint-Étienne, France for the world championships. Once more, Bekele got the better of Kipchoge, winning the gold 30 seconds before Kipchoge crossed the line in fifth.


Kenenisa Bekele

2006 World Indoor Championships: For the first time, Bekele and Kipchoge raced against one another at an indoor race, and at a shorter distance–3,000m–than in previous bouts. The change of scenery didn’t help Kipchoge solve the puzzle that was Bekele, and he fell to the Ethiopian yet again. Bekele won the world championship in 7:39.32, while Kipchoge came in third over three seconds back.

Rome 2006: Continuing the trend in this 5,000m race, Bekele ran to the win in 12:51.44. Kipchoge, on the other hand, placed sixth, crossing the line a full three seconds after Bekele in 12:54.94.

London 2006: Just two weeks after they faced off in Italy, the two men were back on the track, this time in England, racing another 5,000m. Kipchoge’s luck wasn’t any better this time around, and he came in fourth, once again finishing behind Bekele, who placed second.

Zurich 2006: For the fourth time in 2006, Bekele and Kipchoge competed against one another on the track. Yet again, Bekele got the better of Kipchoge, winning the race in 12:48.25, almost a full 10 seconds ahead of Kipchoge, who finished third.

Eliud Kipchoge
Photo: NN Running Team/Instagram


Brussels 2006: For their final meeting in 2006, Bekele really took it to Kipchoge. Not only did he win the 5,000m race, but he absolutely smashed Kipchoge and the rest of the field. He crossed the line in 12:48.09, and had to wait 13 whole seconds for Kipchoge to catch up as he finished in second place, in 13:01.88.

2008 Beijing Olympics: The 5,000m final at the Beijing Games is the last time Kipchoge and Bekele met on the track for an Olympic race. Although their last meeting was two years before, Bekele picked up right where he left off, winning the gold medal over four seconds ahead of Kipchoge’s silver medal-winning time.

Thessaloniki 2009: In 2009, the two faced off in a 3,000m race in Greece. Bekele won the race once again. It wasn’t Kipchoge’s day, and he crossed the line in ninth place, well behind the Ethiopian champion.

2009 World Championships: Six years after Kipchoge’s golden run at the 2003 world championships, he and Bekele lined up to compete for another 5,000m crown, this time in Berlin. Once again, Bekele grabbed another world championship. Although he was only one second behind Bekele, Kipchoge ended up in fifth in that race. This race marked the eleventh win in a row for Bekele over Kipchoge.

Brussels 2011: For the first time on the track, the two men met in a race longer than 5K as they duked it out for the 10,000m event in Belgium. Doubling the distance didn’t help Kipchoge overcome his struggles with Bekele, though, and he finished in fifth place, well behind Bekele, who won.

Doha 2012: After almost a decade since he had last beaten Bekele, Kipchoge finally broke the streak at the Doha Diamond League 3,000m. He came in second in a time of 7:31.40, nine seconds ahead of Bekele’s seventh-place finish.

Paris 2012: This race, a 5,000m affair, was one to forget for both men. Kipchoge finished in eighth, just one spot and under half a second ahead of Bekele.

2014 Chicago Marathon: By 2014, Bekele and Kipchoge had both made the jump to the marathon. Both men had already won a marathon earlier in the year, but this time around in Chicago it was Kipchoge who got the better of Bekele. Kipchoge won in 2:04:11, a minute and 40 seconds ahead of Bekele, who finished in fourth.

Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang celebrate together after placing first and second at the 2015 London Marathon.

2016 London Marathon: For their second meeting on the road, Kipchoge took another win, making it two for two over Bekele in marathons. Kipchoge won in 2:03:05, over three minutes ahead of Bekele, who grabbed the last spot on the podium in 2:06:36.

2017 Berlin Marathon: Fresh off his unofficial marathon record of 2:00:25 at Nike’s Breaking2 attempt in Monza, Italy, Kipchoge stormed to the win in Berlin. Bekele lined up for the race as well, but registered a DNF.

2018 London Marathon: The last meeting between Bekele and Kipchoge came at the 2018 London Marathon. After so many years of Bekele dominating Kipchoge on the track, the tables turned when the two men hit the road. In London, Kipchoge won yet another marathon, while Bekele placed sixth, still winless against Kipchoge over 42.2K.

Berlin Marathon
Bekele winning the 2016 Berlin Marathon. Photo: SCC EVENTS/Camera4

Head to Head Breakdown

Cross-Country: Bekele 2, Kipchoge 0

3,000m: Bekele 2, Kipchoge 1

5,000m: Bekele 8, Kipchoge 2

10,0000m: Bekele 1, Kipchoge 0

Marathon: Kipchoge 4, Bekele 0

Total: Bekele 13, Kipchoge 7

Comparison of Personal Bests

    Bekele                                                 Kipchoge

   3:32.35             — 1,500m —             3:33.20

   7:25.79             — 3,000m —             7:27.66

   12:37.35             — 5,000m —             12:46.53

   26:17.53            — 10,000m —            26:49.02

            1:00:09       — Half-Marathon —     59:25               

        2:01:41          — Marathon —            2:01:39     


Bekele clearly dominated Kipchoge on the track. Head to head, Bekele won 11 times compared to only three times for Kipchoge. It was the same in cross-country. Although the two only met twice in cross-country races, Bekele swept the series. Over their careers, the two have met 20 times, and Bekele leads with 13 wins to seven. But ever since the two made the move to the road and began their marathon careers, it’s been a different story. Kipchoge leads that section of their history with four wins in four competitions.

Similarly, when comparing their PBs, Bekele holds better times than Kipchoge in each category on the track. It’s only when they move to the road that Kipchoge’s times top those of Bekele. After Bekele’s latest performance in Berlin, however, coming in only two seconds shy of Kipchoge’s record, we could still be in for some more showdowns between these two running greats. We certainly hope that’s the case.

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