Battered unconscious and held up by a gang, Kibet is ready for London

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The Independent Online

Few of the runners who will contest the Flora London Marathon on Sunday are likely to have reached the start line without upsets to their preparations. It is a safe bet, however, that no one will have had to endure a build-up as traumatic as Luke Kibet's.

In the space of two weeks at the start of this year, Kenya's world champion was twice put in danger of his life in the ethnic violence that broke out in the wake of the controversial election that confirmed President Kibaki in power.

On 31 December, the day the result was officially announced, Kibet got caught up in vicious fighting between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes in his home town of Eldoret which left more than 100 dead.

Having gone into town to try to get some food supplies, the 24-year-old – a member of the Kalenjin tribe – stopped to help a man who had been shot in the back, but after seeing an ambulance take the injured party away he was knocked unconscious himself by a blow to the back of his head which required five stitches.

Less than a fortnight later Kibet was driving from Eldoret to Nairobi when he was held up by a gang which threatened to set fire to his car. He managed to get away after drawing a gun to protect himself.

Kibet is not the first London marathoner to have suffered such violence. Shortly before he won the 1996 Olympic title, Josiah Thugwane was car-jacked and shot in the face as he drove his pick-up truck near his home in Bethal, South Africa.

But as Kibet looked forward yesterday to what will be his first major marathon since taking gold in Osaka – and thus becoming the first Kenyan world marathon champion since Douglas Wakiihuri succeeded a decade earlier – he reflected with calmness upon his experiences.

"It was bad luck for me," he said, his hand reaching towards the scar which is clearly visible at the back of his head. He was attacked in Eldoret five minutes after the ambulance had taken away the shot man.

"I was in the middle of the road, and Kalenjin were on one side and Kikuyu on the other. I never knew which side attacked me. The two sides were running towards each other and I was caught."

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