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Pepsi enters the Kenyan athletics fray

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NAIROBI, Kenya, November 23- Dickson Kibet and Joseph Kimisi who will race at Sunday’s Beirut Marathon got a boost on Wednesday when they became the first ever Kenyan beneficiaries of soft drink manufacturer Pepsi’s sponsorship.

The undisclosed backing will cover their costs of travel, training and running kit, accommodation and upkeep during their six stay day in Lebanon.

Kimisi, who placed fifth (2:22:53) at the Andersen Marathon in Odense last year and Kibet, who won Mascom Phikwe race in Botswana in June were scheduled to leave Nairobi on Wednesday evening for Beirut.

“This will be the first time to tackle the Beirut marathon and my aim is to run my career best and go under 2:14, I want to better my time. I’m eager and ready to participate in a race that is said to be difficult,” Kimisi, 30, said.

The runner who trains in Machakos under Athletics Kenya vice-chairman, Paul Mutwii, said his experience in four marathons in Sweden, India and Denmark would come in handy.

Should he prevail, Kimisi already has an occasion to dedicate the performance to.

“My son, Emmanuel Kioko will turn one year on December 13 which is very near and my prayer is that I go there and perform to my best so that I can give him a perfect birthday.”

Kibet, also 30, is also itching to return a commendable showing on Sunday.

“I have trained hard for this race and my aim is to go under 2:15 and I’m especially motivated because of the support we have received here today. A lot will depend on the weather but I have prepared to counter any conditions,” he added.

Kibet is a training partner of Frankfurt Marathon champion, Wilson Kipsang, who came only four seconds short of breaking Patrick Makau’s world record of 2:03:38 when he raced 2:03:42 in October in Eldoret.

“Our camp is really proud to have him and his success is encouraging us to aim higher and this is what I intend to do in Beirut,” Kibet stated.

Pepsi, through their Kenyan franchise, SBC Bottling said through their country Head of Corporate Affairs and Sales, Mohammed Khamis, that the sponsorship gesture was heeding the call of Head of State, Mwai Kibaki, to support aspiring runners.

“We went through Athletics Kenya who helped us identify the candidates to support since our aim is to help budding and seasoned athletes realise their potential and brand the country,” Khamis added.

“As such, we do not want to quantify this sponsorship in monetary value rather, we are taking it as our contribution towards developing a sport that has brought so much to our country,” he went on.

Ethiopians have swept the last four editions of the event with Kibet and Kimisi intent of arresting that.

“That is why we are leaving early so that we can master the conditions better before the race,” Kimisi noted.

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