Kenyan Olympic champion and marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, is hoping to return to the top of the podium at the NN Hamburg Marathon on April 11 to redeem his stature following his shock London defeat last year.
The distance running star will be featured at the elite-only marathon for those looking to secure an Olympic qualifying time after few chances to compete in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Kipchoge saw his 10-marathon winning streak ended at the 2020 London Marathon on Oct. 4 but has had the time to recover and build back up at his training camp in Kaptagat, Kenya.
He will be running in Germany to gauge his shape ahead of a planned Olympic title defence in the summer, Xinhua news reports.
“My number one goal is to run a beautiful race in Hamburg. A beautiful race will give people hope. It is another step that we are on the right track to normality," Kipchoge, who ran the standing 2:01:39 world record at the 2018 Berlin Marathon tweeted on Thursday.
According to his management, NN Running, the Rio 2016 gold winner is hoping to reignite his marathon supremacy at the city where he made a victorious debut over the distance in April 2013.
“Hamburg has a lot of memories for me, it was my first exposure to the marathon and I remember thinking I didn’t know what would happen at 25km, 30km, 35km and 40km. That memory of ‘will I hit the wall’ is still there. It was the beginning of my life in the marathon," Kipchoge told the NN Running website on Wednesday.
The impressive 2:05:30 win at the 2013 Hamburg Marathon sparked off a career switch from track running that yielded 11 wins in 13 marathons started for the Kenyan.
Prior to London 2020 where he clocked 2:06:49 for eighth, Kipchoge’s only other loss at the distance came at the 2013 Berlin race where he was beaten to second by compatriot Wilson Kipsang who ran a then world record of 2:02:32.
Kipsang has since been banned for four years for Whereabouts Rules violations.
“Winning there gave me confidence that I could run the marathon and it played a big role in my career. Now I am running Hamburg again in a very different situation. We have very few races globally and it is a good opportunity to test myself, run well and offer hope to the world," Kipchoge remarked.
On October 12, 2019, he became the first man to cover the classic 42.192km marathon distance in under two hours at the specially arranged INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria where he stopped the timer at 1:59:40.
However, like every other sportsperson around the world, Kipchoge was affected by the pandemic, admitting to NN Running that life has been “very hard."
Forced for several months to stay within his compound because of restrictions on movement implemented by the Kenyan government to control the virus, it was not an easy period for the first man in history to run a sub-two-hour marathon.
He spent the lockdown months by organising a food distribution drive in partnership with several local companies and individuals to feed other affected runners who have not been as fortunate as him.
“It was really hard to go training and not mix with people to fight the virus. I am happy to have since resumed training with the team, but we continue to make sure we do so safely within the protocols because the virus is still with us.
“Life has been hard but that is the way of the world - we need to get through it but I think we are on the right track to a brighter future," the three-time London marathon winner underscored.
After suffering an untimely ear blockage, Kipchoge suffered his first marathon defeat in seven years in London but insists he is in “great mental and physical shape" and is looking forward to competing on the streets of Hamburg.