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Bett storms Athens

ATHENS, October 31- Kenya's Raymond Bett won the 28th Athens classic marathon Sunday held this year in celebration of the 2,500-year anniversary of the famous battle that gave the event its name.Bett, 36, finished the 42-kilometre (26-mile) race in two hours, 12 minutes and 40 seconds.

He was followed by last year’s winner, countrymen Jonathan Kipkorir, who clocked 2:14.05 and with third place going to another Kenyan, Edwin Kimutai, in 2:15.21.

"It is my first marathon victory and I feel good. It is a difficult course with a lot of hills and up and downs. If I am invited next year I will break the course record (set in 2004 by Italian Stefano Baldini in 2:10.55)," Bett said.

The women’s race was won by Lithuania’s Rasa Drazdaukaite in a time of 2:31.06

"It was a bit hot but I managed to finish okay," she said.

More than 12,000 runners from 88 countries took part in the race which began in sunshine just a short distance from the tumulus erected for the Greek dead of the battle of Marathon.

Thousands of other runners participated in five and 10-kilometre races in downtown Athens, all finishing at the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The ceremonies at Marathon began at the break of dawn with the lighting of the torch and the start of a five-kilometer relay which started with Greek marathon runner Maria Polyzou and ended with marathon greats, American 1984 Olympics gold medal winner Joan Benoit and Romanian 2008 Olympics gold medal winner Constantina Dita, lighting the altar near the starting line.

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According to legend, the distance from Marathon to Athens was first run by Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger who in 490 BC dashed to the democratic city states of Athens and Platea to announce victory of the citizen soldiers of Athens over soldiers of the Persian empire, before dying of exhaustion.

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