Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia), the second fastest man in history over the marathon distance, has withdrawn from this Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon with a calf injury.

Bekele, who was due to race for the first time since he clocked 2:01:41 to win the 2019 BMW Berlin Marathon in September 2019, said: “I am very disappointed that I cannot race on Sunday.

“It has been a tough preparation time with lockdown when I couldn’t have my NN team around me. I was in good shape but then I picked up a niggle in my left calf after two fast training sessions too close together in the last weeks of preparation.

“I have been having treatment every day since then and I truly believed I would be ready but today it is worse and I now know I cannot race on it.

“This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin last year gave me great confidence and motivation and I was looking forward to show that again, I have worked so hard for it. I know many people around the world have been looking forward to this race and I am sorry to disappoint my fans, the organisers and my fellow competitors. I will take time to recover and become fit again and I hope to be back in London next year.”

To view a video message from Bekele, click here.

Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: “The world has been waiting to see this head to head between Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge but it will now not happen this Sunday. We know how disappointed he is and we wish him a speedy recovery.

“This was never likely to be just a two-man race as we had four of the top ten fastest marathon runners ever and six men in the field who have broken 2:05, including Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun, second and third last year, and 2018 runner-up Shura Kitata.”

The women’s race on Sunday features world record holder Brigid Kosgei, world champion Ruth Chepngetich and 2018 London champion Vivian Cheruiyot and the wheelchair fields are headed by the all-conquering Manuela Schar in the women’s race with Marcel Hug and David Weir, lining up for his 21st London Marathon, in the men’s race.

45,000 people across the UK and 109 countries have signed up to take part in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, running The 40th Race from home or anywhere in the world on the course of their choice between 00:00 and 23.59:59 BST on Sunday 4 October.