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The Ultimate Marathon Race

World record breakers in any event only come around ever so often. A lot of history's greatest athletes peaked in completely different decades and never got the chance to line up against each other. Not in the men’s marathon.

Last Sunday (25th September) Kenenisa Bekele proved why he is one of the greatest runners the world has ever seen (if you don't believe us, take a look at this). The Ethiopian 5000m and 10,000m world record holder became the second fastest marathoner ever, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:03.

It wasn’t the first time in 2016 that Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57 from the 2014 Berlin Marathon nearly tumbled. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge came within eight seconds of his compatriot’s mark when he won the London Marathon in 2:03:05 in April.

It got us thinking. What would it have looked like had the trio run their PBs in the same race?

Let’s take a look at their individual performances.

All times and splits in the graphics below are based on those shown on the respective races’ official results websites.

3 Fastest Marathons 5K Splits ()

Below shows the gaps that would have developed between the three had they been in the same race.

Bekele’s six second deficit on Kimetto, calculated using his pace over the final 2.195km, would have seen him finish 35m behind the world record run. Kipchoge would have been a further 11m behind Bekele.

3 Fastest Marathons Head-To-Head ()

Kipchoge’s opening 5km was 26 seconds faster than that of Kimetto. It is worth noting that the London course has a downhill section between 2.5-3km.

Bekele also went out severely faster than Kimetto, though not as fast as Kipchoge, who maintained his fast pace through 10km before slowing significantly between 10-20km.

3 Fastest Marathons 5K Pace ()

Bekele’s 35-40km split of 14:54 was the slowest of any 5km section of all three athletes, and would have left him trailing the leader by 150m going into the closing 2.195km. Yet his 6:08 for that final section was 20 seconds faster than Kimetto’s, which were run over the same Berlin course. It shows that Bekele still has immense finishing speed over a long distance.

3 Fastest Marathons 5K Splits Graph ()

Bekele and Kipchoge were on course for world records until around 30km. Kimetto’s 14:09 split between 30km and 35km was the fastest of any 5km section of any of the runners. He passed 40km in 1:56:29, the exact same split he clocked when he won the Chicago Marathon in 2013, where he finished 22 seconds off the then world record of 2:03:23.

3 Fastest Marathons 5K Pace Graph ()

So for 2017, can someone get these three guys in the same race, please? Oh, and Wilson Kipsang. The former world record holder owns three of the ten fastest marathon times in history and finished second in Berlin at the weekend.