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Indian runners, course record holders ready for Marathon

Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon

Mumbai : Course record setters Jackson Kiprop of Uganda and Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer are once again expected to lead the African dominance of podium places in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon here tomorrow.

There’s a strong Indian presence too, though they are unlikely to take the top three places, overall in either the men’s or the women’s race.

The likes of good Indian long distance track athletes

O P Jaisha, Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar, among women, and Nitendra Singh Rawat, from the armed forces, are all set to try their best on the winding and, at times, up and down Mumbai roads from Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Bandra via the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link.

Ugandan Kiprop, who specialises in marathons, came into the spotlight in 2013 at the Mumbai marathon as a pacemaker. He not only finished the race but created a new course record by clocking 2:09:32, which is still to be broken.

He’s coming into the race after finishing 10th in the Beijing World Championships in 2:15:15 which makes him the favourite to win the men’s event.

“This is my fifth marathon and I would like to perform better.  If I run well now, I will be able to perform better in the Olympics,” he said in the run-up to the race set to commence at 07:20 am.

“For last year’s marathon, I prepared in the dry and humid climate of Kenya. This year I trained in Uganda, which is hot and windy with hilly tracks. I believe this will help me perform well in this year’s marathon,” he added.

Kiprop is expected to face a tough challenge from the Ethiopian brigade led by Seboka Dibaba, who has been running well in the recent years and was third in the Paris Marathon clocking 2.07 in April, 2015, after podium finishes at the Sydney Marathon in 2014 and Seoul International Marathon in 2013. With a personal best time of 2.06, he is among the fastest in the field.

“I had to run one marathon a year because of my injury. With good weather conditions, I am positive that I will be able to perform well,” he said.

The women’s contingent would be led by Kenyan Kipketer who won the 2013 Mumbai marathon with a course record of 2:24:33 which still remains unbeaten.

In that same year, she won the Amsterdam marathon with a time of 2:23 and later represented Kenya at the 2013 World Championships. Post her maternity break, she made her comeback in this year’s Delhi half marathon.

“I have had injuries in the past, but now I have recovered completely and feeling very confident about myself. My training for the marathon has been good and I look forward to participating in the marathon,” she said ahead of the race.

She will get tough competition from Shuko Genemo, Workitu Ayanu, Alem Fikre, Rebecca Korir, Seada Kedir, Bornes Kitur, Tesfanesh Merga, and Pamela Kipchoge.

Ezekiel Chepkorom from Uganda, Michael Mutai, Gideon Kipketer, Stephen Kiplagat and Geoffrey Kipyego from Kenya would be the men’s pacemakers while Stijn Fincioen and Kjell de Hondt from Belgium will do the same job in the women’s run.

Coming to the Indians, Jaisha is clearly the favourite to finish again among the toppers after setting a national women’s record in last year’s race and then improving on it in the World Championships.

The Kerala-born athlete, who has decided not to run in a marathon after tomorrow and concentrate on qualifying for the August Rio Games in the 1,500 and 5,000m, will face a trial of strength, speed and endurance from her training partners and seasoned steeplechase runners Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar, both Mumbai-based Railways runners.

Though the Indian long distance coach for women, Belarussian Nikolai Snarasev, wanted her to concentrate on the marathon after her surprise show last year, Jaisha insisted yesterday that he has already promised her that tomorrow’s race will be the last marathon she will run in her life.

Both Jaisha, who will turn 33 before the Rio Games, and another qualifier for the Games in women’s marathon, steeplechaser Sudha Singh, are set to bid goodbye to the 42-km road races after training intensely in Ooty after the Incheon Asian Games in 2014.

Lalita too said yesterday will concentrate on her pet 3000m steeplechase event after trying her best to clinch her fourth best-Indian woman runner title tomorrow.

Yet another Asian Games medalist to take part in her first full marathon is Kavita Raut.

Among men, attention will be on Rawat who qualified for Beijing through the marathon he ran in the World Military Games in South Korea and is aiming to break the current course record set by Ram Singh Yadav – 2:16.59 in 2012.

On his preparation for tomorrow’s race Rawat said, “We have been training together for the last 9 to 10 months in Ooty and Dharamshala. I have been training really hard and I feel confident to win this year’s marathon. My target will be to break the course record of Ram Singh Yadav.

The other top Indian men runners are Arjun Pradhan Kheta Ram, Elam Singh and Rattiram Saini.

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