By Ram. Murali Krishnan
MUMBAI (18-Jan) -- The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon to be run this Sunday is going to achieve a milestone as the annual feature in this Indian city is getting ready for its 10th edition.
Started with a humble beginning in 2004, the race attained greater heights through the years with the inaugural winner of men's race, Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa, who went on to win the ING New York City Marathon later that year. At 40, the South African is coming back to Mumbai along with country-mate Poppy Mlambo; she has 13 national titles to her credit.
MOIBEN LEADS MEN'S RACE
Kenya's Laban Moiben, who pipped Raji Assefa of Ethiopia at the tape to win the men's race in 2:10:48 last year, returns to defend his title. Although Assefa pulled out from this year's line-up --he was recently named to the elite field of April's Boston Marathon-- Moiben expects to receive a stiff challenge with another Ethiopian, Abraham Girma, and his own Kenyan compatriot, Elijah Kemboi. Girma clocked an impressive 2:06:48 while finishing fifth at last year's Amsterdam marathon, while Kemboi registered a personal best of 2:07:51 last October in Kosice (fourth place).
Another runner from the 2012 podium, Kenyan John Kyui, is also in the fray on Sunday. Kyui finished third here after he won the Nagpur Marathon in India the previous year. Ethiopia also fields a veteran from the Mumbai roads in Gashaw Melese, who finished third in 2005, was runner-up two years later, and finished seventh in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
There are four marathon debutantes in the elite men's field. One of them, Jackson Kiprop of Uganda, is a training partner of Stephen Kiprotich—the winner of marathon in London Olympics.
DULA TO LEAD WOMEN'S CHALLENGE
Lishan Dula, an African emigrant to Bahrain who is credited with a national record of 2:26:56 clocked in Rotterdam two years ago, hopes to make a memorable show in Mumbai. Ethiopians Aberume Mekuria (2:27:20 at Eindhoven in 2012) and Yeshimebet Tadesse (2:27:45 at Dubai in 2010) are the other top runners in the women's start list. Valentine Kipketer is the top runner from Kenya with a 2:28:02 clocking in Hamburg last year. Another Kenyan, Alice Mogire, will make her debut here; she has a half-marathon personal best of 69:57.
Among the women, only two Ethiopians are returning to this year's race: Fantu Jimma and Desta Tadesse, who took the sixth and eighth places last year. Their teammates Sosena Tekle, winner of the Istanbul Eurasia 15-K in 2011, and Megra Marta are making a debut in the 42.195 km distance in Mumbai.
Winners of both men's and women’s races will earn a top prize USD 40,000 each. Course record bonuses of USD 15,000 are offered by the organizers for both men and women. Those marks were both set by Ethiopians: 2:09:54, Girma Assefa (2011) and 2:26:12, Netsanet Abeyo (2012).