By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI (Reuters) – Triple Olympic track champion Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathon runner in history, said on Wednesday he can shave around 90 seconds off the current world record over the classic 26.2 mile distance before he retires.
Ethiopian Bekele, widely regarded as the greatest distance runner of all time and world record holder over 10,000 and 5,000 metres, is making an attempt at the world record this Friday at the Dubai Marathon.
He ran two hours, three minutes and three seconds when winning Berlin last September, six seconds outside Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57 set on the same course in 2014.
The 34-year-old, who said he is eyeing “just the world record” this week, told reporters he believes he can run “around 2:01:30” before retiring.
The last time Bekele competed in the Dubai Marathon was in 2015 when an injury forced him to pull out mid-race.
“I am fully confident. My preparation is going well. I am healthy enough,” he said on the sidelines of a press conference ahead of Friday’s race. He said he expects a better time than in Berlin.
To run 2:01:30 Bekele said he would need to change his training programme.
“The way you prepare yourself is very different. You need nutrition groups and facilities have to be perfect,” he said, adding that he had not changed his preparations since Berlin.
Dubai is offering a bonus 250,000 dollars to any runner who can break the world record this week on top of the 200,000 dollar first place prize money.
Bekele, who is also due to run the London Marathon in April, the Ethiopian told reporters he would put his hand up for selection for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 if he was fit.
Bekele was left out of the Ethiopian team for last year’s Rio Games.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, editing by Mitch Phillips)