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Athletics | Running

Kenenisa Bekele © Gallo Images

Bekele sets sights on half clash, Rio marathon

Ethiopian track legend Kenenisa Bekele said on Sunday he was still a long way off from thinking of retirement and is instead eyeing a step up to the marathon in time for the Rio Olympics.

Speaking to AFP at his training camp outside of the capital Addis Ababa, the world record holder in the 5 000 and 10 000 metres said he hoped to display a return to form when he races Britain's Mo Farah and fellow Ethiopian great Haile Gebreselassie this month.

The three will be competing in the Great North Run in England on September 16, which organisers say will be the "greatest head-to-head in half-marathon history".

"I did great things in 5 000 and 10 000 metres and now after those races, my big goal is to run a good marathon and a good half marathon, to attack maybe the world record," said Bekele.

"My big hope is to compete in Rio," said the 31-year old.

Bekele won gold in the 10 000 metres in Athens, and followed up with the 5 000m and 10 000m double in Beijing in 2008.

But since then he has been beset by injury, finishing 4th in the London Olympics and missing out on the Moscow World Championships.

He has also been overshadowed by the rise of Britain's Farah.

Still, Bekele's rivals have yet to get within even spitting distance of his world records, set in 2004 and 2005.

"I'm challenging my injury to come back again to fitness, to compete in international races... I don't want to stop at this early age, so I think I will come back again," he said.

Bekele, a national hero in Ethiopia, said the half marathon showdown –his first competitive outing over the distance – will be a tough race and will live up to the organisers' billing as a "dream team" showdown.

His stubborn injury, not mention Farah's staggering finishing kick and Gerbselassie's years of road racing experience, will make for a challenging 21.1 kilometre (13.1 mile) race, he said.

"I will try my best, but of course the race is not easy because I'm competing with Mo Farrah and Gebreselassie and this race it will be my first half marathon," said Bekele, speaking after a morning session on his private track.

Farah, the reigning 5 000m and 10 000m Olympic and world champion, has raced two half marathons, winning both times, while Gerbselassie is by far the most experienced – having been world champion at the distance four times between 1993 and 1999 and having won the Newcastle to South Shields race three years ago.

He held the marathon world record and has a personal half marathon best of 58min 55secs.

But Bekele said he is running twice a day, seven days a week and feels ready to take on those he described as his greatest competitors.

"I'm feeling good, I'm preparing to compete," he said.


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