John Kelai en route to his five second win at Mumbai Marathon (Mumbai Marathon organisers) © Copyright
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Unheralded Yang, Kenyan Kelai the winners in Mumbai

Mumbai, IndiaYang Feng Xia, an unseeded 18year-old Chinese runner, emerged from obscurity to win the women’s crown while John Kelai of Kenya took the men's at the Standard Chertered Mumbai Marathon today (21).

While Kelai, the winner of the 2003 Singapore Marathon and 2004 Brussels Marathon was no stranger to big city marathons, it was the young Chinese who captured the crowd's admiration with her 2:36:16 victory, just outside of Mulu Seboka’s course record of 2:35:03 set last year.

Patient come-from-behind tactic for the Chinese teen

As Seboka opted out of this year’ race, her Ethiopian compatriot Leila Aman (second in 2006), along with former Kenyan world record-holder Tegla Loroupe started as the pre-race favourites. Aman did the front-running along with Atsede Bysa and Helen Musyoka, but they were all trailed behind after the half-way mark. Loroupe took the lead for the next phase before Ethiopian Letay Negash took over. Another Kenyan, Jennifer Lingakwiang, breathed over Loroupe’s shoulder until the Chinese made her kick in the waning stages of the race to capture the win and pocket USD 25,000 prize for her gallant effort.

"I just felt really strong and when I caught the leaders up at 38 kilometres, I knew I was going to win," Yang said. Mumbai was her third marathon after two previous domestic attempts.

Negash and Lingakwiang took the next two spots while Loroupe drifted to sixth.
Kelai keeps Kenyan profile high

The 30-year-old Kelai, a policeman, appeared cool when he took to the starting line-up this morning.  Like Yang Feng, he also maintained a low profile in spite of holding a personal best of 2:09:09 from the 2005 Eindhoven Marathon where he finished fourth.
The pre-race favourite was Gashaw Melese of Ethiopia. Melese, fifth at Mumbai in 2006 before making headlines by winning the Paris Marathon last year with a personal best of 2:08:03, heavily misjudged the Kenyan runner, which cost him dearly at later on.
Russian Alexey Sokolov acted as the pacesetter, before concluding his duties after 15 kilometres. The runners from the lead group shifted their positions among themselves over the next 15Km, before Robert Kipyego, Tariku Jifar, Kelai and Stanley Leleito emerged as the clear leaders, together reaching 32.5Km in 1:41:44. Kelai and Leleito were at the front when the Ethiopians began their charge in the 40th kilometre.  But Kelai, apparently expecting the move, made a move of his own to seal the win, reaching the finish in 2:12:27 to collect his USD 31,500 winner's cheque. Melese and Jifar were second and third respectively, ahead of Leleito, who finished fourth.

Indian sweep in the Half-Marathon
Indian athletes once again dominated the Half-Marathon event as Deep Chand and Madhuri Gurnule took the men’s and women’s titles respectively. Over the full Marathon, Ram Singh Yadav and Leelamma Alphonsa finished 16th in the men's and women's races respectively. Yadav’s time of 2:20:33 is noteworthy, as the mercury rose from 27 to 30 degrees Celsius during the race.

Like every other marathon in the World, the Mumbai event also encouraged the promotion of various charitable causes as the revenue from Celebrity Run and other sources was expected to raise as much as INR 60 million (USD 1.3 million) this year. 

Kelly Holmes, the double gold medallist from the Athens Olympic Games, served as the brand ambassador for this year’s race.  Industrialist Anil Ambani along with Tina Ambani, Bollywood stars Rahul Bose, Manisha Koirala, Jackie Shroff, Pooja Batra and Cricketers Vinod Kamble and Aravinda D’silva of Sri Lanka, encouraged the participants and took part the celebrity run. 

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF
1. John Kelai (Ken) 2:12:27
2. Gashaw Melese (Eth) 2:12:32
3. Tariku Jifar (Eth) 2:12:49
4. Stanley Leleito (Ken) 2:14:21
5. Robert Cheruyiot (Ken) 2:14:49
6. Robert Kipyego (Ken) 2:14:59
7. Vincent Kiplagat (Ken) 2:15:08
8. Jacob Mengich (Ken) 2:15:22
9. Michael Ngaseke (Zim) 2:16:07
10. Julius Kiprotich Seurei (Ken) 2:17:05
1. Yang Feng Xia (Chn) 2:36:16
2. Letay Negash (Eth) 2:37:04
3. Jennifer Lingakwiang (Ken) 2:38:13
4. Marashet Jimma (Eth) 2:28:49
5. Irene Mogaka (Ken) 2:41:12
6. Tegla Loroupe (Ken) 2:42:52
7. Wudnesh Nega (Eth) 2:44:17
8. Tatyana Filonyuk (Ukr) 2:44:27
9. Enetsnesh Tadessa (Eth) 2:44:41
10. Banuella Katsigwa (Tan) 2:48:33
1. Deep Chand (Ind) 1:08:03
2. Bhairav Singh Lone ( Ind) 1:08:25
3. Sachin Sonawane (Ind) 1:08:27
4. Ram Bahadur Subba (Ind) 1:08:29
5. Kennady Chinna Ramu (Ind) 1:08:36
1. Madhuri Gurnule (Ind) 1:19:54
2. Fabiola Oppliger (Sui) 1:26:44
3. Bhagwati (Ind) 1:27:49
4. Anuja Bijagare (Ind) 1:29:20
5. Savita Devi (Ind) 1:31:03