Ethiopian Koren Yal en route to her 2:26:56 course record in Mumbai (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Assefa took the men's race in 2:09:54 while Yal clocked 2:26:56 at this IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Assefa halts Kenyan men's domination
The climate was relatively cooler than in the past editions when the runners took off on Sunday (16) morning. A group of 20 athletes ran together through the first 10Km mark near the Haji Ali shrine in 30:40. Pre-race favourite John Kelai of Kenya, a two-time winner here in 2007 and 2008 as well as the reigning Commonwealth Games champion, was also in the lead group but slightly behind the leaders.
As expected Kenyan pacer Simon Kismili led the race initially before his compatriot Kipkemei Mutai took on the responsibility thereafter. The runners passed 20Km in 1:01:17 and started climbing uphill when the pacers slowed down and trailing behind at the half-way. Luckily the three minute per kilometer pace continued and the 14 men entered Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link after the 25th kilometer in about 78 minutes.
Notwithstanding a heavy gust of wind from the seaside, the lead runners covered the next five kilometer stretch in 13 minutes. However the stress had its own effect as the group split in two and six runners remained in the lead with Kelai managing to hold on.
Ethiopian Botoru Tsegaye Wolde emerged as a leader when the race proceeded in Pedder Road on the return journey. Another uphill task and then a turn in to the beautiful Marine Lines witnessed Kelai dropping back, visibly showing fatigue. However his country-mate Patrick Muriuki remained in the fray. With just five kilometers to go, Wolde’s compatriot Haile Gemeda, winner of La Rochelle Marathon last November, briefly took over the lead.
However Gemeda allowed his teammates and Muriuki to go by as the race progressed towards its last stage. There was a battle for top honours between Muriuki and Ethiopians Girma Assefa and Wolde in the last 500m to finish.
The 26-year-old Assefa emerged as the first athlete from his country to win in Mumbai, a part of the “Greatest Race on Earth” series, as the Ethiopian clocked a career best 2:09:54, a new course record and Indian all-comers’ record. He improved his previous best set in Berlin in 2009 by four seconds. Wolde finished second three seconds behind while Muriuki took the third spot in 2:10:00. The first seven runners all bettered the previous mark of 2:11:51 held by Kenneth Mungara of Kenya since 2009.
In a thrilling finish, Koren prevails in women’s race
Ethiopian women are more consistent than their male counterpart in winning road races in India. With defending champion Bizunesh Urgessa also in the fray, the women runners promised an interesting show even before the start of the race.
Like the men, the women ran together for most of the race before breaking on their way back to finish. Thirty-five year old Elfenesh Alemu, fourth at the Athens Olympic Games Marathon seven years ago, led her teammates but allowed young runners Koren Yal and Merima Mohammed to get away in the last phase of the race.
Merima, eighth in last year’s Mumbai race and second at the Delhi Half-Marathon last Novembe, showed a strong sign to capture the women’s crown today. However her colleague Koren Yal did not let her take it easy. They waged a fierce battle, exchanging the lead several times, and entered the final 100 metre stretch shoulder to shoulder. Everyone expected Merima to get the title, but Koren closed hard to win by a yard in 2:26:56, also a course and Indian all-comers record. Merima was just a second behind in second while Alemu took third in 2:29:04.
Koren shattered the previous Mumbai record by more than three minutes while Merima and Alemu also dipped under the previous mark of 2:30:04 set by Kenyan Mulu Seboka three years ago.
Koren was extremely happy as the victory came just two days before her 24th birthday.
“I am extremely happy and pleased with the result. We ran together and am happy that I was able to beat Merima at the end,” Koren said. What will she do with her first place prize? She explained her ambitions to build a house and buy a car.
The Ethiopian winners were richer by USD 36,000 each from the total prize pool of USD 325,000.
Freeman joins celebrities to cheer the athletes
Sydney Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman was the brand ambassador for the race this year. She joined a host of celebrity artists from Bollywood, the corporate world and social networks. As in the past the eighth edition of the Marathon also witnessed charity organizations under the umbrella of United Way which raised pledges to collect funds for various causes.
As usual the Half-Marathon events were dominated by Indians. The men’s race saw B.C. Tilak setting a course record 1:04:45 while the women’s race was won by Priyanka Singh Patel in a modest 1:22:34. Commonwealth and Asian Games medalist Kavita Raut, the course record holder for women, pulled out at the last minute as her father was critically ill.
Including veterans, wheelchair and open category entrants, more than 38,400 runners took part in this year’s event.
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF
1. Girma Assefa ETH 2:09:54 (Course Record + Indian All-Comers’ Record)
2. Botoru Tsegaye Wolde ETH 2:09:57
3. Patrick Muriuki KEN 2:10:00
4. Tariku Jifar ETH 2:10:08
5. Haile Haja Gemeda ETH 2:10:42
6. John Kelai KEN 2:11:05
7. Japhet Kipkorir KEN 2:11:21
8. Justus Kiprono Kipchirchir KEN 2:12:13
9. Dereje Tulu ETH 2:12:44
10. Bernard Rotich KEN 2:12:47
11. Evans Rutto KEN 2:13:39
12. Hailu Seifu ETH 2:15:39
13. Hillary Bett KEN 2:16:00
14. Julius Mutuku KEN 2:16:01
15. Daniel Yego KEN 2:20:19
16. Ashebir Demissie ETH 2:20:39
17. Ketema Amersisa ETH 2:20:43
18. Tariku Aboset ETH 2:20:47
19. Tesfaye Tola ETH 2:20:55
20. Lyngkhoi Binning IND 2:21:16;
1. Koren Jelila Yal ETH 2:26:56 (Course Record + Indian All-Comers’ Record)
2. Merima Mohammed Hasen ETH 2:26:57
3. Elfenesh Alemu ETH 2:29:04
4. Meseret Legesse ETH 2:32:05
5. Bizunesh Urgessa ETH 2:32:28
6. Makida Haruna ETH 2:32:28
7. Fatuna Sabo ETH 2:33:39
8. Irene Mogaka KEN 2:36:56
9. Meseret Hailu Debele ETH 2:38:26
10. Sisay Measo ETH 2:39:59
11. Haille Kebebush ETH 2:44:59
12. Ayelech Worku ETH 2:45:25
13. Anastasia Ndereba KEN 2:47:54
14. Rosaline David KEN 2:52:05
15. Zeddy Chepkoech KEN 3:03:59
16. Jyoti Shankarrao Gawate IND 3:05:30
17. Tadelech Biru ETH 3:05:56
18. Shastri Devi IND 3:08:15
19. M Sudha IND 3:10:52
20. Anuja Bijagre IND 3:11:46;
Half-Marathon: (all Indians)
MEN: 1. B.C. Tilak 1:04:45 (Course Record), 2. Soji Mathew 1:05:04, 3. Kheta Ram 1:05:32, 4. Parsaram Bhoi 1:05:36, 5. Sanatan Singh 1:06:20;
WOMEN: 1. Priyanka Singh Patel 1:22:34, 2. Sangeeta Yadav 1:23:45, 3. Jayashree Borge 1:24:43, 4. Sunita Kanna 1:36:15, 5. Supriya Devidas Patil 1:41:17.