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Unknown Kibet stalks world marathon record

Monday July 13 2009

By JONATHAN KOMEN

The talk in distance running has been multiple world record holder Haile Gebrselassie’s bid to dip under the two-hour-three-minute mark in the marathon and Kenya’s Olympic champion Samuel Wanjiru’s drive to go one better than the Ethiopian.

Scant mention is made of Duncan Kibet. The 30-year-old runner thrives behind the scenes and could well surprise pundits by shattering Haile’s world record of 2:03.59.

Kibet is not your typical Kenyan long distance runner.

Easy to pick out of the crowd thanks to his expensive jewellery and flashy dress code, Kibet is confident he will smash the world marathon record at September’s Berlin Marathon.

Gebrselassie and Wanjiru will be in the classy field in the German capital, both having opted out of the World Championships in Athletics that will be held in the same city next month. 

Kibet caused a stir when he ran a joint Kenyan marathon record of 2:04.27 with James Kwambai in winning the Rotterdam Marathon last April in a course record time. Tergat held the previous national record at 2:04.59, which he clocked at the 2003 Berlin Marathon.

Based in Eldoret, Kibet also holds the Milan Marathon record at 2:07.53.

“Jamaica” or “Rasta”, as his peers call him, has a unique training programme.

Unlike most road racers who do their training in the open, especially along the roads, Kibet goes for the “guerilla” training style. Inside his car, he has training kits and the bottled mineral water.

He will drive to the rugged Kaptagat Forest road where he parks his sleek vehicle at the roadside, in the middle of the forest, to launch his long runs.

Eventually, he will go down to a nearby stream in the forest to take a bath before getting back to his car for a change of clothes. Resplendent in a hip-hop dress code, Kibet will then return to Eldoret town where he will spend the better part of his day taking sodas with friends in a prominent three-star restaurant.

Running siblings

The second born in a family of five, Kibet’s personal best times stand at 27:45 (10 kilometres), 1:00.22 (half marathon) and 2:04.26 (marathon).

His siblings are runners too.

Luke Meto, their first-born and a Korea-based marathoner, finished fourth at the 2007 edition of Jonghang Marathon in Seoul Korea while Shadrack Biwott, his younger brother, is a Kenyan track scholar in the United States.

Kibet says lowering his personal best would be easier should Gebreselassie set his sights on breaking his own record.

“I will stand a high chance of attaining the feat if Haile Gebrselassie goes for the world record. The Berlin course is fine. I need good pacemakers, like those we had in Rotterdam,” he said.

Kibet is less interested with the Berlin World Championships due next month as the absence of pacemakers there will deny him a lower time.

“The best time is unattainable at the World Championships. Whether I win or not, I need the time and Haile is my only challenger,” said Kibet, who lives in Kesses Division, 30 kilometres from Eldoret.

The Berlin Marathon also sets the ideal stage for Kibet and London and Olympic marathons winner Wanjiru, who also wants to be accepted as the world’s leading marathon runner, to clash. Wanjiru banks on a personal best of 2:05.09, which he set this year in London.

Kibet said: “I need to cross the 35km mark at between one hour and 40 to 57 minutes to attain my dream at this world record pace. I think my debut at the Berlin Marathon will credit me with the best time in marathon.”

Kibet trains under the Rosa Associati stable that is managed by Italian Federico Rosa, son of Gabriele, who is associated with great Kenyan runners among them Paul Tergat and Moses Tanui.

Tanui, a two-time Boston marathon winner, is confident Kibet can make it.

“Kibet is still young and is in a fine shape. Whoever runs under 2:06 in any marathon race has the potential to claim honours,” said Tanui.

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