Mary Keitany, Aberu Kebede and Aselefech Mergia in Bangalore. Mergia won the race with a sensational sprint in the waning metres. (Ram. Murali Krishnan) © Copyright
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Merga and Mergia take thrilling 10km victories in Bangalore

Bangalore, IndiaA change in the course and a better weather forecast envisaged fast times at the second edition of Sunfeast World 10K. However, the Sunday morning saw the course records set in last year’s inaugural race remain intact. No matter their timing, Ethiopians Deriba Merga and Aselefech Mergia provided the expected fireworks with thrilling wins in the men's  and women respectively. 

Coming from a hot 27:24 clocking at Ottawa last weekend, Merga, the Boston Marathon victor had an edge over other competitors here although he had some trouble en route. As expected, Merga took the initial lead with the Kenyans Mark Kosgei Kiptoo, Wilson Kiprotich Kipsang and Bernard Kipyego. Kiptoo, seventh at this year’s World Cross Country Championships at Amman, was ahead at 4km mark in 11:09 with Kipsang and Merga just yards behind the leader. At half-way, the Ethiopian surged ahead, but the Kenyans charged him in full gear.  

When the runners approached the 8km at 22:28, Kipsang started trailing.  Kiptoo remained as a real threat to Merga over the latter stages of the race. Both the runners entered the stadium together before Merga pulled away with just 250m to go to sealthe clear victory in 28:13.

“It was my last competitive race prior to the World championships at Berlin this August,” the Ethiopian revealed after the event. He was very happy about the course and said he liked running in India. It was his second consecutive win on Indian soil after the Delhi Half-Marathon last year.         

Mergia takes the ‘Battle of Bengaluru’

After an enchanting dual last year which saw Elvan Abeylegesse ‘tied’ to the top spot with Grace Momanyi in the inaugural women’s race, everyone was keen to witness another such thriller from the elite field this year.   

Hilda Kibet of The Netherlands had the top billing with her 31:01 clocking back home at Schoorl in 2008. Kenyan Peninah Arusei with a time of 31:42 registered at Paderborn last year was expected to provide the required challenge.

When the race was on, Kenya’s Mary Keitany led the runners in the first 2 Km at 6:24. However the temperature rose to 25 C, from 22 when the men’s race was run, making it difficult for the women to keep a record pace. Keitany kept the lead while favourite Kibet was still on ‘box’.  Another Kenyan, Peninah Arusei, was close on her heels to Keitany when they together went past the 4 Km mark in 13:02. Ethiopians Workitu Ayanu, Aberu Kebede and Merga along with Sally Barsosio of Kenya were in the bunch with Kibet still holding on as the ninth runner.  

At midway the strength of the leading group began to diminish as the pacemakers completes their assigned task. Keitany remained the leader and went past the 7km mark near the monumental Vidhan Soudha, the state assembly building, at 23 minutes. The competition looked very tight at this stage between Keitany, Kebede, Kibet and Mergia.   

Mergia, like Merga, was a winner of Delhi Half-Marathon last year – a tremendous improvement from her seventh place finish there in 2006.  Keitany went through 8.5km at 27:37 when Kebede and Mergia started running shoulder-to-shoulder with her at Cubbon Park.

Turning in to Kasturba Road, Keitany made her kick and entered the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as the first runner with Kebede and Mergia followed her in that order. Once inside the stadium, Mergia ran the race-of-her-life to overtake the other two and battled it out with Keitany just a few metres from the finish. Mergia clocked 32:08 to grab the crown and an exhausted Keitany was just a second behind!  

The winners took home a USD 21,000 prize purse each while second and third place finishers received $ 12,000 and $ 8000 respectively, down to $ 1,000 for the tenth spot. Besides this, the Top-5 Indian finishers in each category were also awarded handsome cash prizes.

Kumar, Raut top Indians

Sandeep Kumar and Kavita Raut were the top Indian finishers placing 16th and 14th overall in men’s and women’s divisions respectively.  Both Kumar and Kashinath Aswale, who finished behind Kumar today, had taken part in the Asian Grand Prix series held at China. They landed at Bangalore (from Hong Kong) just four hours prior to the start of the race. “We could have figured at the top-10 here had there been enough rest,” opined Aswale after the race. 

This year also witnessed the introduction of a National Challenge event in which the top scoring State units were awarded attractive prize money. Aided by Santosh Kumar and Preethi L. Rao, the host state Karnataka took the top place and INR 450,000.

Maurice Greene, the former 100m World champion and World record holder, was the brand Ambassador for this year’s Sunfeast World 10K run. He was literally mobbed by athletes, coaches and autograph hunters.  Greene was really moved with the overwhelming response to the race and aptly promised to come back to India again next year.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF

Leading Results:

MEN

1. Deriba Merga (Ethiopia)     28:13
2. Mark Kiptoo (Kenya)         28:15
3. Bernard Kipyego (Kenya)     28:24
4. Wilson Kipsang (Kenya)      28:30
5. Dino Sefir (Ethiopia)       28:39
6. Fabiano Joseph (Tanzania)   28:49
7. Dejere Tadessa (Ethiopia)   28:55
8. Dechase Chala (Ethiopia)    29:00
9. John Wambua (Kenya)         29:08
10. Ezekiel Cherop (Kenya)     29:24
..
16. Sandeep Kumar (India)      30:02
17. Kashinath Aswale (India)   30:08
..
20. Santosh Kumar (India)      30:13
21. Ram Singh Yadav (India)    30:14

WOMEN
1. Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia)    32:08
2. Mary Keitany (Kenya)           32:09
3. Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia)        32:11
4. Hilda Kibet (Holland)          32:22
5. Meseret Mengistu (Ethiopia)    32:26
6. Peninah Arusei (Kenya)         32:27
7. Workitu Ayanu (Ethiopia)       32:36
8. Sally Barsosio (Kenya)         33:07
9. Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia)        33:14
10. Zakia Mrishko (Tanzania)      33:47
..
14. Kavita Raut (India)           34:32
15. Preeja Sreedharan (India)     34:40
..
17. Preethi L. Rao (India)        35:21
..
24. Sudha Singh (India)           36:55
..
25. Jhumma Khatun (India)         37:02