While a recent fall during training forced former World Marathon record holder Paul Tergat out of Sunday's BIG 25 Berlin, organisers managed to find a suitable replacement for the 29th running of Germany's oldest road race.
“Luke Kibet will now enter the BIG 25 with bib number 1,” the race's elite athletes' manager Christoph Kopp announced, giving the reigning World Marathon champion the immediate label of 'man to beat' in Sunday's race.
Kibet dropped out of the London Marathon with problems two weeks ago at around 32 km, but is said to be fit for a 25km race.
Tergat sustained an injury during a training session last Monday in Ngong, Kenya. Nonetheless Tergat came to Berlin, the city where he wrote athletics history when becoming the first man to run a sub 2:05 marathon in 2003 (2:04:55), to show his support for the race.
“I was really looking forward to the BIG 25 because I have never ever run a 25km race in my career," Tergat said. "And I was really going for a very good time. But then on Monday I fell, because the surface was slippery because of the rain. At first it did not feel too bad, but at the next day I felt a problem in the back and my doctor told me not run, because then a serious problem could develop. I feel really sad, but wanted to come to support the race. And hopefully I will be able to come back and run the BIG 25 next year.”
Organisers were also able to recruit another quite able runner, Matthew Koech, on short notice. The Kenyan placed fifth in this year’s Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon clocking 59:54. Further Kenyan favourites will be Fred Kosgei and Richard Lagat. Kosgei is the winner of the Prague Half Marathon in 2008 and Lagat has a personal best of 28:28 at 10km. But it is Kibet who knows the course best. The World champion won the 25km in 2005 with 1:13:51, and had placed second with 1:12:52 when Paul Kosgei (Kenya) established the 25km World record of 1:12:45 in 2004. That time still stands today.
“I don’t think it is likely that we will see a result in the region of the World record," Kopp said, "but we may have a chance regarding the European record.” Leading the continental standard chase will be Dmytro Baranovskiy, the Ukrainian Marathon record holder (2:07:15), who wants to go for the mark which stands at 1:14:20. James Kibocha Theuri of France set the record at the Paris Marathon a month ago.
The women’s field will see defending champion Peninah Arusei returning to the BIG 25. In 2008 she also set the 25km course record of 1:24:10. Additionally she could become the first runner in the history of the event to win it three times. Arusei had first won the BIG 25 in 2006.
Sunday's race begins at 10am in front of the Olympic Stadium, which will host the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Berlin, Germany (15 - 23 Aug 2009). The course then leads the runners through the city centre of the capital, passing the Brandenburg Gate, Friedrichstraße, Potsdamer Platz and Gedächtniskirche. The finish will be inside the Olympic Stadium. Organisers expect around 9000 entries for their race, which will also include a 10km race, a 5x5 km relay and a children’s race.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF