Kibet beats the heat to capture marathon world championship

OSAKA, Japan &

Luke Kibet frequently gets mixed up with fellow Kenyan marathon runner Luka Kibet.

This gold medal should help clear things up.

Luke Kibet won in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 59 seconds Saturday, becoming the first Kenyan in 20 years to win a marathon gold medal at the track and field world championships.

The only other Kenyan to win was Douglas Wakiihuri, who won in Paris in 1987.

"I'm very happy to win for Kenya," Kibet said.

Mubarak Hassan Shami of Qatar was second in 2:17:18, and fast-finishing Viktor Roethlin of Switzerland was third in 2:17:25.

Kibet's time was the slowest winning time in world championship history. The previous was 2:14.57 by Hiromi Taniguchi of Japan in Tokyo in 1991.

The weather played a factor. the end of the race, the temperature had soared to 91 degrees. The humidity was at 62 percent. The field of 87 runners had 28 drop out. Two did not start.

Nick Davies, a spokesman for the IAAF, said the number of runners not finishing was not unusually high. The weather for the marathon in Helsinki at the 2005 world championships was 63 degrees and 37 runners didn't finish, Davies said.

The marathoners tried to stay cool by wringing sponges over their heads at water stations and pouring entire bottles of water over their bodies.

Yet it didn't help.

"I tried to run my best, but it was very warm. Very warm," Kibet said.

Kibet, a 24-year-old prison guard, emerged from a big pack around halfway through the race and pulled ahead of a small leading group that included Shami about 5 miles from the finish.

That was the plan devised the day before. But the strategy also included his friend and fellow Kenyan, William Kiplagat, taking off with him. Kibet was on his own, though, as Kiplagat couldn't keep up with him. After leading at various stages, Kiplagat faded and finished eighth, 3:22 behind.

"We both tried our best," Kibet said.

Roethlin said he prepared for the heat of Osaka by training in nearby Kobe for 21/2 weeks before the event. He said he didn't feel too bad until after the first 151/2 miles.

And then the sauna-like heat hit him.

"I was hot and fighting," Roethlin said. "I didn't know how my body would react in this heat."

Roethlin was able to pull away from Japan's Tsuyoshi Ogata, who finished fifth, and Satoshi Osaki, sixth, with a few kilometers to go.

"I didn't make friends in Japan," Roethlin said with a grin.

Two-time world champion Jaouad Gharib of Morocco did not compete, deciding to forgo the championships after having taken extra time off following the London marathon.

The top U.S. marathoners, including Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, did not take part in Osaka and instead are concentrating on the U.S. Olympic trials in New York in November.

The highest U.S. finisher was Mbarak Kipkorir Hussein, who was 21st in 2:23.04.

As Kibet walked off toward a side room to cool down, a person tried to get his attention and accidentally called him "Luka," a Kenyan runner who's been participating in marathons since 1997.

Kibet turned around, smiled and said, "I'm Luke."

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