2:11:51 course record for Kenneth Mungara in Mumbai (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright
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Mungara and Kebebush take Mumbai Marathon titles

Mumbai, IndiaKenneth Mburu Mungara shattered teammate John Kelai’s dream of winning a hat-trick of titles in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday (18).  The men’s race saw a Kenyan sweep of the top three spots, while Haile Kebebush led a 1-2 finish in the women's.

The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

It was a misty climate when the race started in the metropolis on Sunday morning. Boniface Usisivu led a group of a dozen athletes during the first phase of the race. They ran together, covering the first 10 km in 30:36. Usisivu and Ethiopian Rege Neguse, last year’s Expo marathon victor in Zaragoza, ran shoulder to shoulder and went past the 14 km mark in 43:10. At that time, India’s Ram Singh Yadav and his Greatest Race On Earth (GROE) teammate Deep Chand were 35 seconds behind the leading group.

Thereafter, pacemaker Usisivu begun to slow down and a small band of seven athletes took charge. They crossed the half-way mark in 65:44, just 4 seconds inside the target time to improve the course record of 2:12:03. At 23.2 km, Mungara along with countrymen Dan Tarus and Simon Tanui brke away from the group. The clock showed 73:12, and Yadav was now about 20 seconds behind them.

In Mumbai, the phase between 30 and 34 km is said to be the most difficult part of the race. It was then the temperature played a cruel role as the mercury soared to 30 degrees (86 F).  Kelai, looking for his third consecutive title and fully familiar with the terrain, made a kick along with Ethiopians Neguse and Lemma Siyoum. This reduced the gap between them and the leaders.

Mungara, last year’s victor in Toronto and Prague, however had other ideas. He increased his pace on seeing Kelai coming closer, with Rome marathon sixth placer David Tarus already on his heels. 

Running against the clock, Mungara went past the finish-line in 2:11:51 setting a new course record and in that process also bettering the Indian all-comers record held in the name of Shivnath Singh since 1978. Singh timed 2:11:59.4 during the Open Nationals at Jalandhar.

Tarus (2:12:02) and Kelai (2:12:23) completed the Kenyan sweep. Ethiopian Neguse was fourth at 2:14:04. 

It was the fifth consecutive victory for Kenyan men at Mumbai after Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) won the inaugural title in 2004.

Kebebush extends Ethiopian dominance

If Kenyans are stronger among the men’s runners, the Ethiopian women are becoming increasingly successful in endurance races around the world. With Mumbai Marathon triple victor Mulu Seboka running at Dubai and finishing tenth less than 48 hours earlier, she left the task to nine of her country-mates running at Mumbai this year. 

With defending champion Seboka out of contention, last year’s runner-up Irena Mogaka Kemunto was the bookie’s favourite for the women’s title.  However it was another Kenyan, Linah Cheruyiot, who did the front-running. Mogaka along with Ethiopians Haile Kebebush and Radiya Roba were on the ‘box’. 

Cheruyiot went past the first check-point at 14 km in 49:31. She was on hold when Kebebush and her Ethiopian compatriot Martha Markos closed-in at the next post – 23.2 km – in just over 83 minutes. Cheruyiot dropped behind when the women started climbing uphill in the next part of the race.  But Mogaka remained on the fray.

Unlike the men’s field, a large group of women athletes returned to Mumbai this year. These were the runners who have ranked among the top-10 in the previous editions. Kebebush, fifth at last year’s race, with other Ethiopians – Zebenaye Moges (6th in 2008), Wudnesh Nega (7th in 2007) and Leila Aman (third in 2006) – were among them. 

South Africa’s Piet Jacobs did the pacing. However, due to scorching weather they struggled to run faster. Kebebush, last year’s runner-up at Dublin as well as the winner of 2006 Helsinki and Barcelona marathons, played a trick with teammate Markos in the last stages of the race.  Just after 42 km, she made a sprint to finish the race in 2:34:08, seven seconds ahead of Markos. Kenyan Mogaka was third in 2:37:28.

Both the winners received a prize purse of USD 31,000 each. In 2009, the total prize money amounted to USD 250,000.

Indians take Half Marathon wins

As in the past, Indian athletes dominated the half-marathon scene. Surender Singh – the national record-holder in the 10,000m – took the men’s title with a modest 1:06:09 while Kavita Raut clinched the women’s honour in a slow time of 1:20:58. 

Like every other marathon in the World, Mumbai also used the race to raise charity funds for various causes. This year’s race was more significant as it was the first major public event held after the 26 November terror attacks on the metropolis. A portion of funds generated from the race will be dedicated to the rehabilitation of the victim’s families.       

People from all walks of life such as cinema stars, models, social workers and businessmen took part either in the full or half-marathon besides the ‘dream run’ and wheelchair events conducted simultaneously. Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group of Companies and a regular participant here, was been awarded a permanent bib number (9999).  

As usual, Mumbai organisers invited a host of celebrities to bless the occasion. The brand ambassador Gail Devers along with Suresh Kalmadi, IAAF Council Member and Chairman of 2010 Commonwealth Games at New Delhi, gave away the prizes to the winners.    

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF

Leading Results:

Marathon -
MEN -
 1. Kenneth Mungara, KEN  2:11:51
 2. David Tarus, KEN      2:12:02
 3. John Kelai, KEN       2:12:23
 4. Rege Neguse, ETH      2:14:04
 5. Lemma Siyoum, ETH     2:14:29
 6. Peter Biwott, KEN     2:14:32
 7. Benjamin Serem, KEN   2:14:37
 8. Stanley Rono, KEN     2:15:01
 9. John Mutai, KEN       2:15:07
10. Simon Tanui, KEN      2:16:22
11. Ram Singh Yadav, IND  2:18:03

WOMEN -
 1. Haile Kebebush, ETH    2:34:08
 2. Martha Markos, ETH     2:34:15
 3. Irene Mogaka, KEN      2:37:28
 4. Zebenaye Moges, ETH    2:38:47
 5. Radiya Roba, ETH       2:39:25
 6. Emma Muthoni, KEN      2:42:07
 7. Auela Lemma, ETH       2:42:23
 8. Olena Biloshchuk, UKR  2:44:15
 9. Joyce Kirui, KEN       2:47:40
10. Joyce Kandie, KEN      2:47:57
 

Half-Marathon -
MEN -
 1. Surender Singh, IND  1:06:09
 2. Santosh Kumar, IND   1:08:08
 3. B.C. Tilak, IND      1:08:35

WOMEN -
 1. Kavita Raut, IND       1:20:58
 2. Preethi L. Rao, IND    1:21:23
 3. Vaishali Chatare, IND  1:26:45