John Kelai of Kenya, the winner of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2008 (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kelai, Seboka take Mumbai Marathon titles

Mumbai, IndiaAfter a year in hiatus, Ethiopian Mulu Seboka became the first athlete to win the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon for a record third time, while Kenyan ace John Kelai successfully defended the men’s crown.

The mercury climbed from a moderate 20 degree Celsius to 30 between the start and finish of the race, paving the way for the Africans to excel. Running in its fifth year, the Mumbai Marathon, now an iconic event in this part of the world, has already received the recognition it deserves when IAAF conferred it with a Silver Label. Further it draws greater enthusiasm among the runners as Mumbai was one of the races listed for achieving the qualifying norm for Beijing Olympics.

Seboka’s record-breaking spree continues

When Seboka first won the race in 2005, she clocked a course record 2:35:03. The following year she improved it to 2:33:15, which was also an Indian all-comers’ record. Seboka’s absence in 2007 was eventually capitalised by China’s Yang Feng-Xia.  Being the first Asian runner to win the race, she clocked a moderate 2:36:16. 

Today’s race saw pacemaker Hellen Nzembi lead the first phase of the race. Joseph Mbithi, the men’s Eurasia Marathon victor in 2005 at Istanbul, courted her and country-mates with Seboka remaining in the bunch. The leaders crossed the 10 Km mark in 35:36. Seboka took over after the 15 Km mark and registered 1:14:30 at halfway, indicating a fast time at the finish.   Kenyan Irene Kemunto, the ninth place finisher at the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon with 2:49:46, gave some challenge to Seboka before the Ethiopian pulled away to finish the race with a personal best 2:30:03, in the process bettering her own course record as well as the Indian all-comers’ record. 

Kemunto finished second with a career best 2:32:50 and her team-mate Margaret Toroitich took the third spot in 2:33:55.

Kelai repeats

Daniel Rono, the 2006 winner at Mumbai, acted as a pacemaker. “I am preparing for the Rotterdam Marathon and would like to test the heat and humidity here,” he revealed in a pre-race briefing. 

Rono and Joseph Kimisi led the runners to through the first half in 64:51. It increased the high expectation among the fans, thousands of whom assembled on the roadside as well as millions of television viewers who watched it live from their homes across the country on national television.

Tariku Jifar (Ethiopia), who finished third here last year, did the front running in the next phase when the pacemakers slowed down having finished their job. Kelai, the defending champion, shifted the lead with Jifar and the duo controlled the race between them with compatriots Elijah Nyambuti, Philemon Boit and Ketema Amersisa running yards behind.

When Kelai went past the 40 Km mark at 2:05, he was a bit tired but still managed to hold the lead to finish the race in 2:12:22, five seconds faster than he clocked last year and another five seconds victory margin as he did in 2007.  Kelai’s time took him and his team (Kenya “B”) to the top spot in the overall Greatest Run On Earth standings for 2007-08.  Nairobi (28 Oct) and Singapore (2 Dec) hosted the first two stages of the series; The Hong Kong Marathon on 17 February will play host the final leg of the four-race series promoted by the Standard Chartered Bank.

Jifar was second in 2:12:27 and thwarted a late challenge from Philemon Boit, who finished third at 2:12:34.

India’s Ram Singh Yadav finished a commendable 10th position in the men’s race clocking 2:18:23, but just missed the Olympic qualifying "B" standard of 2:18. Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, the IAAF Council Member and President of the Indian Olympic Association said he will explore all possibilities to include Yadav on the Indian team for Olympic Games.

Indians dominate Half-Marathon

As they did in past years, Indian runners held centre-stage by winning the top spots in the Half-Marathon. Surendra Singh overpowered Jutsi Utrianen of Finland to win the men’s event in 1:05:43.  Kavita Raut got the better of compatriot Preeja Sreedharan by winning the women’s race clocking 1:16:36.

Run, Fun and Charity

There has been an increased number of enthusiasts for the Mumbai Marathon as the number of participants grows each year.  Apart from the main marathon and half-marathon, a 6 Km Dream Run, 4.3 Km Senior Citizens’ Run and 2.5 Km Wheel Chair events were also conducted simultaneously.  Prizes were also given to Best Costumed participants.  This year the total number of participants crossed the 33,000 mark.  Procam International, which conducted the event, explained that they had to restrict the entries since the logistics and infrastructure are inadequate to accommodate more runners.  Perhaps Mumbai will see larger participation in future if the situation can be improved.

Apart from its competitive nature, the Mumbai Marathon brought together people from all walks of life.  Now an important event in the Indian metropolis, it adorned a festive-like look and attracted many corporate houses to come forward as sponsors.  Industrialists, film personalities, politicians, journalists and players from various sports joined together with commoners to keep the spirit alive year after year.  “It is great to see so many people together,” opined Gabriela Szabo, a former Olympian and the event's Ambassador for this year. 

The funds raised through Dream Run and other charitable moves connected with this Marathon have been used for several social causes through NGOs.  Noted actor Rahul Bose, associated with one of the NGOs, has highly praised the efforts. The amount collected for charities reached beyond the targeted level through the years which encouraged both the organisers and the NGOs to pledge for more development in the future.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF

Leading Results: [extended times, prize money in parenthesis]

Marathon

MEN:
1. John Kelai (Kenya) 2:12:22.21
2. Tariku Jifar (Ethiopia) 2:12:27.98  
3. Philemon Boit (Kenya) 2:12:34.57 PB
4. Ketema Amersisa (Ethiopia)  2:13:36.29 PB 
5. Elijah Nyambuti (Kenya) 2:14:27.94 PB
6. Enock Mitei (Kenya) 2:16:12.23  
7. Evans Rutto (Kenya)  2:17:06.66  
8. John Maluni (Kenya) 2:17:34.52   

WOMEN:
1. Mulu Seboka (Ethiopia) 2:30:03.19 PB 
(Course Record and Indian All-Comers’ Record)
2. Irene Kemunto (Kenya) 2:32:50.91 PB
3. Margaret Toroitich (Kenya) 2:33:55.69
4. Winfrida Kwamboka (Kenya) 2:37:34.12 
5. Haile Kebelush (Ethiopia) 2:37:35.28  
6. Zebenaye Moges (Ethiopia) 2:37:38.32 
7. Nailya Yulamanova (Russia) 2:37:38.32 
8. Letay Negash (Ethiopia) 2:39:52.13 PB 

Half Marathon

MEN:
1. Surendra Singh (India)    1:05:43.57 
2. Jussi Utriainen (Finland)  1:05:57.07 
3. Santosh Kumar (India)     1:06:16.85

WOMEN:
1. Kavita Raut (India)  1:16:36.81
2. Preeja Sreedharan (India)   1:16:38.07
3. Preeti L Rao (India)  1:19:26.51