Taking place on the same day as the national election, the Berlin Marathon pits reigning Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge against 10,000 meter world record holder Kenenisa Bekele

By Sara Germano (WSJ) |

BERLIN―On Sunday, the Berlin Marathon will feature a long-awaited matchup of two Olympic champions in their as-yet unfulfilled quest to break the world record for 26.2 miles. It’s a contest that promises to yield far greater drama than the German capital’s other race on Sunday: the federal election.

For the first time, the world’s fastest marathon will take place on the same day as the country’s national election, a coincidence highlighted by logistical challenges and stark contrasts. While Angela Merkel is widely expected to cruise to her fourth term as Germany’s chancellor in a race that local and international media have dubbed a “bore,” predicting a winner in Sunday’s marathon is next to impossible.

In a preview of the road race, which will pit reigning Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge against 10,000 meter world record holder Kenenisa Bekele, editors of popular online running forum LetsRun.com wrote, “People could be talking about this marathon for a long, long time.”

Both Eliud Kipchoge, of Kenya, and Kenenisa Bekele, of Ethiopia, have long sought the marathon world record in separate races but have thus far come up short. Their official personal-best times—2:03:05 and 2:03:03, respectively—are a gasp away from the record​of 2:02:57 set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto here in Berlin. ​

Kipchoge, who ran a world-best time of 2 hours, 25 seconds in an unsanctioned Nike marketing stunt this spring, won the 2015 Berlin marathon but missed the record after his shoes infamously fell apart mid-race.

Kenenisa, meanwhile, will make his third record attempt this year, after his quests in London and Dubai missed the mark. He is a three-time Olympic champion on the track and his rivalry with Kipchoge dates back to the 2003 track and field world championships, where the Kenyan upset the Ethiopian distance king for 5,000 meter gold.

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