Grand stage set for 12th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday
Reigning champion of the men’s race, Kenya’s Evans Ruto and his countrymen, including Henry Sugut and Luke Kibet, will face stiff competition from three Ethiopian challengers in the US$ 360,000 prize-money Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015, which will be flagged-off on Sunday, January 18.
Last year, the Kenyans completed a clean sweep clinching the top three places, but this year their party could be ambushed by the Ethiopians who are led by the experienced Dereje Debele, Shume Hailu and Tesfaye Abera. The 29-year-old Debele, who has a personal best time of 2:07:48, has not had a very impressive season last year, but this time around he is expected to produce a strong run. Hailu comes into this race with wins in the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes and the Rome Marathon, both with timings of a little over 2:09, while Abera, is a promising athlete who will be making his debut.
However, the 30-year-old Ruto, who finished in 2:09:33 last year and narrowly missed the course record, is set to defend his title. He also has a promise to fulfil as during the post-race press conference last year, Ruto said that he would return next year and try to finish the race in 2.07 or 2.08. So we can surely expect Ruto, whose personal best his 2:07:47, to keep his promise.
Besides Sugut, who returns after an injury lay-off in 2014 and Kibet, the other Kenyan runners are Jacob Cheshari, Filex Kiprotich, Michael Chege, Benard Rotich, Peter Kosgei, Silas Kipruto and Bernard Kihanya.
Meanwhile, the women’s defending champion, Dinknesh Mekash will spearhead a strong field of seven runners from Ethiopia and with just two Kenyans in the fray, they are expected to dominate the event. The 30-year-old Mekash, who trains in Addis Ababa, will have to watch out for Kenya’s Gladys Kipsoi, if she hopes to retain her title.
The Kenyan athlete Kipsoi, who finished second to Mekash last year, had said earlier this week that she wants to win the race and has trained hard and would give her best to emerge a clear winner.
Defending champions Karan Singh and three-time winner Lalita Babar are the faces of the Indian challenge in the men’s and women’s categories But this time Karan of Army Sports Institute will face strong competition from seasoned runner Ram Singh Yadav, who has a vast experience in long distance running.
Rashpal Singh of Sikh Regiment, Jabalpur Centre, who finished second last year, and Ratiram Saini from Rajasthan are the others who could halt Karan from defending his title.
Meanwhile, veteran Kerala athlete O.P. Jesha will pose a major threat to Babar and prevent the Maharashtra runner from extending her reign on the women’s crown. The Keralite who is making her marathon debut had earlier said that she has nothing to lose and would go all out to push for a first place finish.
From this year there is an added incentive for the Indian participants in Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, as TCS will sponsor top two Elite Indian (male and female) runners who finish in the first and second positions at the TCS New York Marathon.
The weather will play a big role. If the temperatures drop then the people of Mumbai will witness a great race and exciting moments.