Series07 Aug 2019

Advice to my younger self: Kenenisa Bekele


Ethiopian distance runner Kenenisa Bekele (© AFP / Getty Images)

During an illustrious career, the Ethiopian endurance running great has bagged three Olympic and 17 senior world titles. The world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder takes time out to chat to his younger self.


Young Kenenisa,

From an early stage of your athletics development, you acknowledged the importance of discipline. Continue to listen to your coaches, remain focused, and this will help you enjoy many great successes.

Not many athletes will achieve what you did on the global stage at such a young age. Your career will evolve into one of the greatest in history. You will win three Olympic gold medals and five outdoor world titles on the track. You will set world 5000m and 10,000m records and, looking in from the outside, many might assume you would change very little.

However, young Kenenisa: you do not always train perfectly. Sometimes you will undertrain and you may not always have access to the best physiotherapy. These may prove crucial in achieving your career goals. 

Oh, and on the subject of physio. Try to look after your body. You may feel bulletproof – especially during some of your greatest triumphs – but ignoring physiotherapy will create problems in the aftermath, especially during your marathon career. Injuries can – and will – cause huge frustration.

During times when you struggle with injury, you may feel despondent and demotivated. You may not always be fully committed to carrying out the correct rehab exercises. But this will only make the marathon an even more difficult event to master. 

Maintaining fitness levels and full health as an athlete in your mid-30s will be hard. But don’t give up. Stick with it and aim to sign off your career on a high.

Listen to your body and make the necessary sacrifices. If you do that, you can fulfil your marathon potential and finish your career with a flourish.



Steve Landells for the IAAF