How Kenenisa Bekele Used 5k And 10k Training To Set New Masters Marathon Record

Kenenisa Bekele continues to push the boundaries in Masters running

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The Valencia Marathon is always a thrilling event where some of the world’s most elite marathon runners come to take on the historically fast course. The race, which takes place on the eastern coast of Spain, has a long history of record-breaking performances, thanks to its flat course and typically ideal weather conditions.

The results from the 2023 edition, which took place on Sunday, December 3, were nothing short of exceptional.

Headlining the results was Ethiopian Sisay Lemma, who not only won the race but also set a new course record of 2:01:48. His time now stands as the fourth fastest record-eligible marathon in history.

However, one runner who just missed out on the podium made history in another way.

2023 TCS London Marathon - Elite men race - Kenenisa Bekele
Photo Credit: Katie Chan

Three-time Olympic gold medalist, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, placed fourth, with a time of 2:04:19, setting a new world record in the Masters category.

41-year-old Bekele used his experience and wisdom to his advantage. As the pace continued to increase at the front of the race, Bekele knew it was unsustainable and backed off his pace, crossing the halfway mark just over 20 seconds behind the leaders.

Bekele has been at the top of distance running for the last 20 years, beginning on the track and cross country course, eventually transitioning to the road to take on the marathon. In his long career, Bekele has won 19 world championship titles and won the Berlin Marathon twice.

However, despite his age, Bekele has said that his best is yet to come.

“My mind tells me that I can still do better in the marathon.”

2017 London Marathon
Photo Credit: Julian Mason

Bekele Training Speed In Marathon Build

As Bekele is one of the more veteran marathoners in the elite world, he is still pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Bekele and his coach have been known to be quite open about his training, as he’s gone through many ups and downs in his career.

In 2020, Bekele shared his training as he built up to the 2019 Berlin Marathon, where he set a personal best of 2:01:41, just shy of the world record at the time by two seconds.

Although his training included many expected elements of a marathon buildup, such as the long run and longer intervals, he also included a number of short interval sessions that are much more typical for a 5000m and 10,000m runner.

Examples of workouts Bekele would do throughout his marathon buildup included: 

  • 12x300m on the mountain
  • 20×1′ + 20×30″
  • 30x400m
  • 30×1′ + 30×30″
  • 20x500m

During his taper, it was also common for Bekele to include 20 accelerations towards the end of his runs.

London 2012, The Olympic Games
Photo Credit: Robbie Dale

Double Dose Of Masters Standouts

Along with Bekele breaking the Masters world record in the marathon this weekend at the Valencia Marathon, there was another standout Masters marathon performance.

Over in Japan, the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon also took place on December 3.

42-year-old Ser-Od Bat-Ochir of Mongolia showed that age is just a number, as he raced to fourth place at 2:10:11.

The Masters category boundaries continue to be challenged, leading us to question the prime age for a marathon runner. Do we all have a different “Golden Age” where we can get the best of ourselves?

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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