Kenenisa Bekele (Amharic: ቀነኒሳ በቀለ; born 13 June 1982) is an Ethiopian long-distance runner and the current world record and Olympic record holder in both the 5,000 metre and 10,000 metre events. He took Gold in both the 10,000m and 5,000m events at the 2008 Summer Olympics. At the 2004 Olympics he took Gold in the 10,000m and Silver in the 5000m. He is married to Danawit Gebregziabher (m. 2007) and he has one younger brother, Tariku Bekele, who is also an accomplished world-class distance runner.

He is the most successful runner in IAAF World Cross Country Championships history, with six long (12 km) course and five short (4 km) course titles. He won the 10,000 m title at the World Championships in Athletics in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 (matching Haile Gebrselassie's four in a row win streak). Kenenisa was unbeaten over 10,000 m from his debut in 2003 until 2011, when he failed to finish at the World Championships final.

At the 2009 World Championships in Athletics he became the first man to win both 5000 m and 10,000 m title at the same championships. Over 5000 m he has also won an Olympic silver (2004), World Championship bronze (2003), two African Championship titles and one All-Africa Games gold medal. He also won the 3000 metres title at the World Indoor Championships in 2006.

Kenenisa is considered one of the greatest distance runners of all time, owning several world records and an array of medals. On 6 April 2014, he produced the sixth fastest marathon debut ever on a record eligible course with his victory at the Paris Marathon, in a course record time of 2:05:04. On 25 September 2016, Bekele won the 2016 Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:03:03 which set a new personal best time for him at the Marathon distance and the second fastest marathon of all time.


Kenenisa was born in 1982 at Bekoji, Derg, the same town as the Dibaba sisters (Ejegayehu, Tirunesh and Genzebe) and their cousin Derartu Tulu.

In March 2001, he won the IAAF World Junior Cross Country title by a full 33 seconds.[5] Five months later, in August 2001, he set a new 3000 metres world junior record, 7:30.67 minutes in Brussels. The record lasted for three and a half years, being broken by Augustine Choge with a run of 7:28.78 minutes.[6] In December 2000 and 2001 Kenenisa won the 15k roadrace Montferland Run in the Netherlands.

For five years in a row, from 2002 through 2006, he took both short (4 k m) and long (12 k m) races at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, a feat no other runner has accomplished even once. After the IAAF eliminated the short course race in 2007, Bekele won a final long course race in 2008, bringing his World Cross Country medal totals to 11 senior individual gold medals (6 long course, 5 short course), 1 senior silver medal (2001), 1 junior gold medal (2001), 2 team gold medals (2004, 2005), 3 team silver medals (2002, 2003, & 2008), and 1 team bronze medal (2006) for a grand total of 19 medals.

Kenenisa is renowned for his ability to accelerate very quickly at the end of a long distance race; in Oslo in June 2003, Kenenisa chased after Kenyan Abraham Chebii and ran a 54.64 final 400 to win the race in 12:52.26. Again in Lausanne on 1 July 2003, Kenenisa recorded a 200 m segment during the last lap in 24 seconds and a 100 m section in 12 seconds to run a 52.63 final lap.

Kenenisa has faced his mentor Haile Gebrselassie twice in road competition, once in cross country, and six times on the track. Haile defeated Kenenisa on the track in the 2000 Nurnberg 5000 metres, the 2001 Great Ethiopian Run 10 km, and the Cross de l'Acier in December 2001, but lost to Kenenisa in Hengelo 2003 over 10,000 m (26:53 to 26:54), Rome 2003 over 5000 m (12:57 to 13:00), Paris 2003 World Championships over 10,000 m (26:49 to 26:50), Athens 2004 Olympic Games (27:05 to 27:27), in the 10,000 m in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (27:01 to 27:06), and in the Great North Run half marathon in September 2013 (60:09 to 60:41).

Kenenisa's outstanding track career led to his involvement in a project to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon, though a number of factors undermined this effort.[7]

2004 season

In 2004, he broke the world records for the indoor 5000 m, outdoor 5000 m and outdoor 10,000 m. He won the short and long course world cross country titles, leading Ethiopia to the senior men's team title. He also won a gold medal in the men's 10,000 meters and a silver medal in the men's 5000 meters in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

2005 season

On 4 January 2005, Kenenisa's fiancée, 18-year-old Alem Techale, died of an apparent heart attack while on a training run with him. Although it was initially stated that no autopsy was performed, Alem and Kenenisa's manager, Jos Hermens, later said that an autopsy had revealed nothing conclusive about Techale's death. She was the 2003 World Youth Champion in the 1500 metres and in excellent physical condition.

Kenenisa competing in the 2006 Golden League

Over the next several weeks following Alem's death, Kenenisa grieved. He resumed racing on 29 January, and lost indoors over 3000 m to Ireland's Alistair Cragg after sprinting towards the line with one and a half laps to go, while thinking that there was only half a lap left. Such confusion was presumed to have been caused by his grief.[8] A few weeks later he lost to fellow Ethiopian Markos Geneti over two miles.

In March, Kenenisa lined up to defend his long and short course titles at the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. He won on the short course despite a fast pace set by Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen, and followed that win with a long course victory the next day over Eritrean Zersenay Tadese and Kenyan rival Eliud Kipchoge.

On 8 August 2005, Kenenisa Bekele won the gold medal in the 10,000 m at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki with a stunning last 200 m spurt.[9]

On 26 August 2005, Kenenisa set the current 10,000 m world record 26:17.53 at the 29th Memorial Van Damme meeting in Brussels, slicing nearly three seconds off his previous world record 26:20.31, and running with 5000 m splits of 13:09 and 13:08 minutes.[10][11] At the end of 2005 Kenenisa was voted the Track & Field News magazine athlete of the year for the second year in a row.


Kenenisa leading the way at the 2007 Cross de Itálica.

When Kenenisa won the 3000 m at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Moscow, he became the first athlete in history to be Olympic champion, world outdoor track champion, world indoor track champion, and world cross country champion.

In 2006 he won five out of six IAAF Golden League events (5000 m) in the same season, which earned him a total of US$83,333.

On 17 February 2007, he broke the indoor world record over 2000 m in Birmingham, with a time of 4:49.99. His spectacular final 300 m aided this time which would be considered excellent even outdoors.

On 24 March 2007, however, his remarkable racing streak of 27 consecutive victories in cross country races (dating back to his last previous loss in December 2001) came to an end when after leading the race in the penultimate lap of the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa he succumbed to the very hot, humid conditions (which caused more than 1/6 of all competitors to drop out) and was passed by eventual winner Zersenay Tadese on the last lap before Kenenisa dropped out. This was greeted with cheers by the Kenyan crowds, an occurrence which has been frowned upon by the wider athletics community.

He recovered from that rare failure to take the 10,000 metres title at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka, once again besting his compatriot Sileshi Sihine. During that race, he looked like he was going to be dropped several times over the last 800 metres, but recovered to overtake Sileshi with 150 metres to go and take his third straight world title.

On 18 November 2007, Kenenisa married Ethiopian film actress Danawit Gebregziabher at the Sheraton Addis, in Addis Ababa.[12]

Beijing Olympics and Berlin World Championships

Kenenisa celebrating his gold medal victory at the 2009 World Championships.

In Edinburgh on 30 March 2008, Kenenisa won his sixth World Cross Country title (long course – 12k), breaking the three-way tie of 5 wins he had previously shared with Paul Tergat and John Ngugi. With this win, Kenenisa laid sole claim to most decorated athlete in IAAF World Cross Country Championships history. He has won 6 long course (12k) individual gold medals, 5 short course (4k) gold medals, 1 junior championship (8k), and 4 team gold medals for a sum total of 16 gold medals. His overall medal count (both individual and team results) stands at 27 medals: 16 gold, 9 silver and 2 bronze.[13]

On 17 August 2008 Kenenisa won gold in the 10,000m finals with a time of 27:01.17, setting a new Olympic Record in the process. In a race in which 20 men broke the 28 minute barrier and four finished under Kenenisa's 2004 Olympic record of 27:05.10, he needed his renowned finishing kick to pull out the victory, running a 53.42 second final 400 metres (similar to the 53.02 second final 400 meter sprint he used to win the gold medal in Athens in 2004 over the same distance).[14]

On 23 August 2008 Kenenisa bested his competitors and won the 5000m finals, shattering Saïd Aouita's Olympic Record by almost eight seconds with a time of 12:57.82. The race was remarkable for Kenenisa's manner of doing most of the pacing himself before accelerating to a scintillating finish: his last 3000 metres only took 7:35.53, his final 2000 metres 4:56.97, last 1600 metres 3:57.01 (=3:58.4 final mile) and his final lap a punishing 53.87 seconds.

By winning the 10,000/5000m double in the Beijing Olympics, Kenenisa joined another elite group of athletes: Hannes Kolehmainen (1912), Emil Zátopek (1952), Vladimir Kuts (1956), Lasse Virén (twice, in 1972 and 1976) and Miruts Yifter (1980).

Kenenisa won two gold medals at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, held in Berlin. His double victories in 5000m (13:17.09) and 10,000m (26:46.31 – a World Championships Record) were unprecedented and by doing this became the first man to take both the long distance track gold medals at the same World Championships.[15] His talent combination of endurance and speed has made it nearly impossible to defeat Kenenisa when he is at full strength. During the 10,000m race in which Kenenisa was running behind Eritrea's Zersenay Tadesse, the broadcaster declared "it is over, in fact it was over from the start" as the final lap began and Kenenisa turned an ostensibly close race into a blowout. The IAAF announcer concluded, "this man is probably the greatest distance runner we will ever see."[16]

In spite of his unrivalled success in athletics, Bekele did not experience the mainstream appeal that others such as Haile Gebrselassie did. His quiet demeanour and aversion to interviews did not make him a highly marketable athlete in the Western world. Fellow world record holder Usain Bolt stated that Kenenisa's achievements had not received the recognition that they deserved.[17]


Kenenisa pursuing the lead pack in the 10,000 meters Men's final event at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Kenenisa made a disappointing start to 2009, finishing fourth in the Edinburgh Cross Country in a race he was favored to win – a trio of Kenyan athletes ran him out of the contest over the final lap. Kenenisa spent the entirety of the indoor and outdoor seasons out with a ruptured calf muscle.

2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics

Kenenisa finally returned to training after a knee injury in March 2011.[18] Having not raced on the track since 2009, Kenenisa returned for the World Championships.[19] But Kenenisa dropped out of the 10,000m with 10 laps remaining.[20] He decided not to run the 5,000m and[21] returned to the Diamond League at the Ivo Van Damme Memorial in Brussels where he set the fastest time in the world for the 10,000 metres in 2011.[22][23]

Bekele's 2012 did not start well, as he was a lowly eleventh place at the Edinburgh Cross Country.[24] In April, he appeared to have returned to form by winning the Great Ireland Run in a new personal best time for a 10 km road race of 27:49, improving the course record by 46 seconds.[25]

In the 2012 London Olympics 10,000m race he ran within the leading group for the whole race, but could not keep up with the Mo Farah's sprint in the last 150 meters and eventually finished fourth, with a time of 27:32.44, just 1.01 second outside the bronze medalist, his brother Tariku.[26]

In his first race of 2013 he won the Great Ireland Run for a second time.[27] Kenenisa then won the Great North Run half marathon in a time of 60:09, beating Mo Farah by just one second after making a move that Farah couldn't match with just less than 12 miles gone.

Marathon career

Kenenisa at the 2014 Paris Marathon.

Kenenisa Bekele started his marathon career in the 2014 Paris Marathon on 6 April 2014. His marathon debut was very successful as he bettered both the Paris course record and the debut marathon times of past legends Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Tergat and Samuel Wanjiru by running 2:05:04 to win.[28]

Kenenisa then went on to compete in the 2014 Chicago Marathon on 12 October 2014. He finished fourth in 2:05:51, 1min 40s behind Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge.[29]


On 23 January 2015, Kenenisa Bekele took on the Dubai Marathon, where he had to retire from the race after 30 km.[30]

Kenenisa was planned to compete in the 2015 London Marathon but had to withdraw due to a persistent injury to his right Achilles tendon.[31] Following 11 months of injury, Kenenisa returned to racing at the 2016 London Marathon. Prior to the race he indicated he was only currently at 90% fitness. Bekele finished in 3rd place behind winner Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott in a time of 2:06:36. This performance was despite the fact he only returned to jogging in early 2016 following injury and had only completed 6 weeks of specific marathon training. He was also hampered in the race by missing his drinks at 5 separate stations, due to them being used by the designated pacemakers.


On 25 September 2016, Bekele won the 2016 Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:03:03 which set a new personal best time for him at the Marathon distance and the second fastest marathon of all time.


On 19 January 2017, attempting to break the world record, Bekele dropped out of the Dubai Marathon after the half way mark due to a fall at the beginning of the race.

On 23 April 23 2017, Bekele finished second in the 2017 London Marathon, finishing in 2:05:57, 9 seconds behind winner Daniel Wanjiru.


Personal bests

Kenenisa leading the 5000 m at the 2009 World Championships
Distance Time (min) Date Location
1500 m 3:32.35 28 September 2007 Shanghai
Mile run (indoors) 4:01.57 3 February 2006 New York City
2000 m (indoors) 4:49.99 (WR) 17 February 2007 Birmingham
3000 m 7:25.79 7 August 2007 Stockholm
3000 m (indoors) 7:30.51 20 February 2007 Stockholm
Two miles 8:13.51 26 May 2007 Hengelo
Two miles (indoors) 8:04.35 16 February 2008 Birmingham
5000 m 12:37.35 (WR) 31 May 2004 Hengelo
5000 m (indoors) 12:49.60 (WR) 20 February 2004 Birmingham
10,000 m 26:17.53 (WR) 26 August 2005 Brussels
10 km (road) 27:49 15 April 2012 Dublin
15 km (road) 42:42 9 December 2001 's-Heerenberg
Half Marathon 1:00:09 15 September 2013 Newcastle
Marathon 2:03:03 25 September 2016 Berlin

Yearly progression

5000 metres
Year Best Location Date World rank
2012 12:55.79 Paris 6 July 9th
2009 12:52.32 Zurich 28 August 1st
2008 12:50.18 Zurich 29 August 1st
2007 12:49.53 Zaragoza 28 July 1st
2006 12:48.09 Brussels 25 August 1st
2005 12:40.18 Paris 1 July 1st
2004 12:37.35 Hengelo 31 May 1st
2003 12:52.26 Oslo 27 June 3rd
2002 13:26.58 Milan 5 June 71st
2001 13:13.33 Seville 8 June 29th
2000 13:20.57 Rieti 3 September 53rd
10,000 metres
Year Best Location Date World rank
2012 27:02.59 Birmingham 22 June 3rd
2011 26:43.16 Brussels 16 September 1st
2009 26:46.31 Berlin 17 August 1st
2008 26:25.97 Eugene, Oregon 8 June 1st
2007 26:46.19 Brussels 14 September 1st
2005 26:17.53 Brussels 26 August 1st
2004 26:20.31 Ostrava 8 June 1st
2003 26:49.57 Paris 25 August 4th

Competition record

Major international competitions

  • Note: XC stands for cross country
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Ethiopia
1999 World XC Championships Belfast, United Kingdom 9th Junior race (8.012 km) 26:27
World Youth Championships Bydgoszcz, Poland 2nd 3000 m 8:09.89
2000 World Junior Championships Santiago, Chile 2nd 5000 m 13:45.43
2001 World XC Championships Ostend, Belgium 2nd Short race (4.1 km) 12:42
1st Junior race (7.7 km) 25:04
2002 World XC Championships Dublin, Ireland 1st Short race (4.208 km) 12:11
1st Long race (11.998 km) 34:52
2003 World XC Championships Lausanne, Switzerland 1st Short race (4.03 km) 11:01
1st Long race (12.355 km) 35:56
World Championships in Athletics Paris, France 3rd 5000 m 12:53.12
1st 10,000 m 26:49.57
All-Africa Games Abuja, Nigeria 1st 5000 m 13:26.16
2004 World XC Championships Brussels, Belgium 1st Short race (4 km) 11:31
1st Long race (12 km) 35:52
Olympic Games Athens, Greece 2nd 5000 m 13:14.59
1st 10,000 m 27:05.10
2005 World XC Championships Saint-Galmier, France 1st Short race (4.196 km) 11:33
1st Long race (12.02 km) 35:06
World Championships in Athletics Helsinki, Finland 1st 10,000 m 27:08.33
2006 World Indoor Championships Moscow, Russia 1st 3000 m 7:39.32
World XC Championships Fukuoka, Japan 1st Short race (4 km) 10:54
1st Long race (12 km) 35:40
African Championships Bambous, Mauritius 1st 5000 m 14:03.41
IAAF World Cup Athens, Greece 2nd 3000 m 7:36.25
2007 World XC Championships Mombasa, Kenya Senior race (12 km) DNF
World Championships in Athletics Osaka, Japan 1st 10,000 m 27:05.90
2008 World XC Championships Edinburgh, United Kingdom 1st Senior race (12 km) 34:38
African Championships Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1st 5000 m 13:49.67
Olympic Games Beijing, China 1st 5000 m 12:57.82
1st 10,000 m 27:01.17
2009 World Championships in Athletics Berlin, Germany 1st 5000 m 13:17.09
1st 10,000 m 26:46.31
2011 World Championships in Athletics Daegu, South Korea 10,000 m DNF
2012 Olympic Games London, United Kingdom 4th 10,000 m 27:32.44

World Grand Prix Finals

Year Competition Venue Position Notes
2001 Grand Prix Final Melbourne, Australia 2nd 3000 m
2003 World Athletics Final Monaco, Monaco 1st 3000 m
2005 World Athletics Final Stuttgart, Germany 1st 5000 m
2009 World Athletics Final Thessaloniki, Greece 1st 3000 m

Circuit honours

Cross country wins



  1. ^ "Kenenisa Bekele". bbc.com. BBC Sport. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "Kenenisa Bekele". iaaf.org. International Association of Athletics Federations. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "Kenenisa Bekele". sports-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c IAAF. "Athlete profile for Kenenisa Bekele". 
  5. ^ IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2001 U20 Race Men
  6. ^ IAAF, 17 November 2009: World Records ratified
  7. ^ Longman, Jeré (11 May 2016). "Two-Hour Marathon. Can It Be Done?". nytimes.com. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  8. ^ "Bekele error helps Cragg to victory". RTE.ie. 2005-01-30. Retrieved 2018-01-30. 
  9. ^ 2005 World Championships 10000 m final
  10. ^ Bekele 10000 m world record – IAAF
  11. ^ Bekele 10000 m world record – YouTube video
  12. ^ "Bekele follows Campbell down marriage path". iaaf.org. 
  13. ^ "Kenenisa Bekele gone out of Ethiopia's Olympic team". OmRiyadat English. 
  14. ^ BBC Sports http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/athletics/latest_results/default.stm
  15. ^ Jörg Wenig (2009-08-23). Bekele conquers another superlative. IAAF. Retrieved on 24 August 2009.
  16. ^ Ethiopia Kenenisa vs Eritrea Zersenay tadesse
  17. ^ Chadband, Ian (2009-09-01). Kenenisa Bekele is the Usain Bolt of distance running. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 1 September 2009.
  18. ^ "Bekele back in training, hopeful for London 2012 Athletics Weekly - the best coverage of the No.1 Olympic sport". Athletics Weekly. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "World Athletics Championships 2011: Kenenisa Bekele is big unknown quantity for favourite Mo Farah". Telegraph. 
  20. ^ "World Athletics 2011: Mo Farah settles for 10,000m silver in Daegu Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. 30 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "Farah won't face Bekele in 5,000m as the Ethiopian returns home Athletics". insidethegames.biz. 31 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "Bekele sets season best in 10,000m - The Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 17 September 2011. 
  23. ^ IAAF.org (15 September 2011). "Brussels offers Bekele the chance to bounce back – Samsung Diamond League". iaaf.org. 
  24. ^ Wenig, Jorg (2012-01-07). Kiprop triumphs in race of champions, Bekele a distant 11th – Edinburgh XC report. IAAF. Retrieved on 8 January 2012.
  25. ^ Cole, Brendan (2012-04-15). Bekele wins Great Ireland Run in stunning style. RTE. Retrieved on 15 April 2012.
  26. ^ Mulkeen, Jon (2012-08-04). Ennis, Farah and Rutherford take gold for Britain on 'Super Saturday' - London 2012 Day Two Report. IAAF. Retrieved on 4 August 2012.
  27. ^ Martin, David (2013-04-14). Bekele retains title, Howarth takes honours in Dublin. IAAF. Retrieved on 2013-04-18.
  28. ^ "Kenenisa Bekele Runs 2:05:03 in Marathon Debut – Breaks course record and smahes debut times of past legends Gebrselassie, Tergat and Wanjiru". 6 April 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  29. ^ "Kenyans sweep Chicago Marathon, Kenenisa Bekele fourth". 12 October 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  30. ^ "Ethiopian clean sweep at Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon". 23 January 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  31. ^ "Kenenisa Bekele Withdraws from London Marathon with Injury". 18 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 

External links

Preceded by
Haile Gebrselassie
Men's 10,000 m World Record Holder
8 June 2004 –
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Haile Gebrselassie
Men's 5000 m World Record Holder
31 May 2004 –
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Hicham El Guerrouj
Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Asafa Powell
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Stephen Cherono
Men's 5000 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Eliud Kipchoge
Preceded by
Haile Gebrselassie
Micah Kogo
Men's 10,000 m Best Year Performance
2004 – 2005
2007 – 2009
Succeeded by
Micah Kogo
Josphat Kiprono Menjo
Preceded by
Isaac Kiprono Songok
Men's 3000 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Edwin Cheruiyot Soi