MORE THAN 37,000 people participated in the inaugural Rajkot Half Marathon on Sunday with runners from Kenya and Ethiopia dominating the event in both men’s and women’s categories. Indians, however, made podium finish with the third position in both categories.
The Race Course ground was almost chock-a-block by 5.30 am as thousands of participants, from school children to senior citizens, assembled for the maiden half-marathon in Saurashtra region. Minister of State for Science and Technology Govindbhai Patel and Rajkot Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra flagged off the 21-km half marathon.
Director of the event Lihas Trivedi said more than 40,000 people had registered for various categories of the half-marathon, of whom around 37,000 participated. Trivedi said thanks to the high turnout, Rajkot half-marathon was the second biggest in India after Mumbai in terms of number of runners.
Cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara, the star attraction and brand ambassador of the half-marathon, ran the full distance. He said that it was for the first time that he participated in a marathon and completed it successfully. Commissioner Nehra also completed in the 21-km race.
Both Pujara and Nehra, running side by side, crossed the finish line at the athletics ground of the RMC in 2.19 hours.
Simion Kiplagat of Kenya won the half-marathon in the men’s category, clocking 1:03:26. He received Rs 2 lakh prize money. Bereket Kidanu of Ethiopia, who crossed the line in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 58 seconds, won Rs1 lakh cash for finishing second. India also registered its presence with Belliappa A B from Hyderabad finishing third, taking 1 hour, 5 minutes and 6 seconds and bagging Rs50, 000 prize money.
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In Women’s category, Ethiopian Etsegenet Zegeye was the first to finish the half marathon, clocking 1:20:43. She was followed by Brigid Kimitwai, who took 1 hour, 22 minutes and 34 seconds. India’s Kiranjit Kaur was the third by pacing the 21-km in 1 hour, 23 minutes and 23 seconds.
However, the prize distribution ceremony was marred by a controversy when Shobha Makwana of Bhavnagar was declared the first runner-up in the women’s category, clocking 1:22:23, but Kaur protested on the podium itself alleging a man had run on behalf of Makwana. Other participants too supported the allegation and later on evidence of CCTV footage, Makwana was disqualified.
The marathon was jointly organised by the RMC and city police with an aim to promote cleanliness and sporting culture in the city.