The gladiatorial match-up the whole world has been waiting for – Eliud Kipchoge versus Kenenisa Bekele – is on and will take place on 26 April at the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Two of the greatest distance runners in history and the two fastest men ever over the marathon distance will go head to head at this World Athletics Platinum Label road race in a contest the world has been waiting to see.

Kipchoge, the 2018 and 2019 World Athlete of the year, is widely considered the greatest marathon runner of all time. The Kenyan is the Olympic champion, a four-time London Marathon winner and the official world record holder for 26.2 miles at 2:01:39. In October, he became the first man to run a sub two-hour marathon at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, an exhibition event in Vienna.

But his world record was nearly broken by Bekele at last September’s BMW Berlin Marathon. The Ethiopian great, who is the current world record holder for both the 5000m and 10,000m and twice World Athlete of the Year, finished just two seconds outside Kipchoge’s world record.

Kipchoge, 35, confirmed in December that he’d be returning to London. Bekele, 37, has also taken up the challenge to run in what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated races in marathon history.

“This is a match-up of two of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen and two men who already have their names in the record books,” said Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon. “We are thrilled we have been able to make it happen in London.”

“It is the head to head the world is waiting to see.”

Bekele, whose best finish in the London Marathon was second in 2017, said: “I am thrilled to be returning to London. I feel like I have unfinished business here and I would love to win this beautiful race.

“I am looking forward to racing against Eliud once again. We have had many great battles over the years on the track, roads and cross-country. He is a special athlete who proved that again with his magnificent achievements last year.

“I feel like my win in Berlin proved that I am still capable of winning the biggest races in the world and in world-class times. I am really looking forward to what I can do in London.”

Kipchoge and Bekele have previously met four times over the marathon distance, including twice in London (2016 and 2018), with Kipchoge coming out on top each time. But Bekele has the better head-to-head record over all distances and surfaces.

Bekele is also a three-time Olympic gold medallist and he has won 17 world titles on the track, cross-country and indoors.

The two men spearhead the men’s field which also includes the second and third-placed finishers from last year, Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun.