21 kilometres and 285 metres is the distance Haile Gebrselassie set on 27 July 2007 in one hour, at the Czech track of Ostrava. 4819 days later Mo Farah and Bashir Abdi will attempt to break that record at the 44th AG Memorial Van Damme. The two runners are good friends and trained together the past few weeks in France.
Abdi turned heads in March by breaking the Belgian marathon record in Tokyo with a stunning: 2:04:49. "I am happy I was able to do that, right before the corona pandemic turned everything upside down," said the 31-year-old Belgian, who also has Somalian roots just like Farah.
"In this interrupted season a world record attempt is a very fun challenge. I'm not really used to running on the track any more, my last stadium race was two years ago at the Memorial. But I'm really happy to be back now. During training I had to get used again to running lap after lap. I prefer running in a straight line," Abdi laughed.
Farah: 'I'm going to enjoy it'
Farah, who claimed Olympic gold medals at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games on both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, does enjoy his track running. More recently, the Briton also added plenty of marathons and half marathon to his schedule, but late last year he decided to aim for the 10,000 metres at the Tokyo Olympics. "I had to be honest with myself. I really enjoyed the marathon, but I came to the realisation that track running gives me even more satisfaction."
The world record attempt will be roughly equal to a half marathon. What will be Farah's tactic? "We will need an average time of 2 minutes and 49 seconds per kilometre to break the record," he explained. "It will be important to get through the first half of the race well, and then we will see."
Abdi played down his chances to beat his experienced running mate. "The question is not if I have a chance to beat Mo, but if I'll be able to follow him. Mo is a lot quicker than me at the end. We also saw that in training. Let's not kid ourselves."
That makes Farah the favourite for a unique challenge. "I love challenges and I'm really going to enjoy it tomorrow. It would be a massive honour to step into the footsteps of Haile Gebrselassie," the four-time Olympic champion added.
Hassan and Kosgei attack 12-year old world record
The women's world hour record has stood since 2008, when Ethiopia's Dire Tune ran 18.517 kilometres. Sifan Hassan is aiming to beat that distance 12 years later. "At the start of the corona crisis I was training in Ethiopia for a few months and then I headed to Sankt Moritz in Switzerland," said Hassan, who is preparing for next month's half marathon at the world championships in Poland. "Three weeks ago I ran a 5,000 metres in Monaco, but I didn't feel that great there. The past few weeks I managed to train well, so I think I am ready for it."
Brigid Kosgei is getting ready for the London Marathon on October 4. The 26-year-old Kenyan is currently the world's best marathon runner. She won the prestigious marathons of Chicago (2x) and London and set a new world record in Chicago in 2019, raising the benchmark to 2:14:04 in a mixed marathon. "This world hour record attempt fits perfectly in my preparation," Kosgei explained. "The past couple of weeks I worked on my speed in Kenya. I am going to try my hardest tomorrow."