By Isaack Omulo
ELDORET, Kenya (Reuters) - Running a marathon in under two hours is not possible, Kenya’s Olympic 5,000 and world 10,000 champion Vivian Cheruiyot has said in response to an initiative by sportswear manufacturer Nike to achieve that feat.
Nike has enlisted Kenya’s Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa Bekele and Eritrean Zersenay Tadesse in a bid to break the two-hour mark this year.
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“I have no problem with the project, but I am very skeptical about it,” Cheruiyot, 33, told Reuters during a break in training for the London Marathon.
"The world record can be broken... Kipchoge can do it. The time can still come down from the current (2:02:57), but 1:59:59 is setting the bar too high. They could have set it below the current world record," she said.
“Running a marathon in under two hours is impossible. It doesn’t look real. They should have set the bar at slightly under (Dennis) Kimetto’s 2:02:57,” she said.
Cheruiyot, who won two gold medals at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, took time off to have a baby before returning to claim the Olympic 5,000m title in Rio last year.
She said she would have won the 10,000m as well if her team mates had co-operated, suggesting that Alice Aprot blundered by running too fast too early and leaving Cheruiyot and Betsy Saina on their own.
Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana won in a world record time of 29 minutes 17.45 seconds. Cheruiyot was second and Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba third.
“Olympics need meticulous planning, knowing the advanced level of competition. She (Aprot) declined (our plan) and we did not run as a team," Cheruiyot said.
She is now focused preparing for the London Marathon on April 23 and will run another marathon in September.
“I want to run well in London and I am feeling no pressure, despite the strong line-up. Mary (Keitany) and (defending champion) Jemimah (Sumgong) are there, but because I have not competed with them and I have not run the marathon, I don’t feel any anxiety,” she said.
“I have just started preparing for the event, I ran my first 40km two weeks ago as part of my preparation. I think it will be exciting,” she said.
(Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)