Almost 1,000 runners will head off from the starting line at the 30th Tiberias Marathon at 9 A.M. this morning. The field is the largest and the best in the events history with 30 foreign runners taking part.

Leading the pack is Patrick Ivuvti, a 29-year-old Italian who finished fifth in the 2005 Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:07:46.

The last Kenyan to win the Tiberias Marathon, Simon Bor, who grabbed the title in 2002, will also be competing.

Bor won the 2005 Toronto Marathon with a time of 2:11:57.

Twenty-one marathoners from Kenya all with times under 2:20 have been invited by the Israel Athletic Association, the sponsor of this week's marathon. Ten of the Kenyans have personal bests under 2:15 and have said they plan to go for the race record of 2:12:45 which offers a $40,000 prize.

An additional seven runners from Ethiopia, including the winner of the 2004 and 2005 Tiberias Marathon, Habtamu Bekele, will be competing.

Among the Israelis, Nili Abramski is the favorite in the women's event.

Abramski said she expected a very fast race if weather conditions allowed and she would try to set the criteria for the World Championship and the Olympics..

Eight-time Israeli champion Assaf Bimero and three-time champion Zvadia Wodj are the favorites in the men's event. Last year's winner Halie Satain is injured and will miss the race.