Evans Ruto led a clean sweep by Kenya in the men’s race but missed narrowly in creating a new course record, while pre-race favourite Dinknesh Mekash clinched the women’s crown with ease in the 11th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon here today.
Ruto clocked 2 hours, 9 minutes and 33 seconds to miss the course record, set last year by his countryman Jackson Kiprop, by a mere second as well as the bonus fee of USD 15,000. He had to be satisfied with the winner’s prize money of USD 41,000 out of the total fund of USD 3,60,000.
The 30-year-old winner was followed in second position by his Kenyan compatriot Lawrence Kimaiyo, who finished 12 seconds adrift of the winner, while the third spot was grabbed by another Kenyan runner Philemon Baaru, in 2:09:58.
The men’s field included reigning Commonwealth Games champion John Kelei, a two-time winner who is also of Kenya who finished outside the top-ten, as well as another former champion Kenneth Mungara (Kenya), who finished 10th in 2:14:13 and got USD 1,000.
There were eight Kenyan runners in the top ten, the remaining spots going to another East African nation Ethiopia. And it was the eighth time in 11 years that a Kenyan stamped his superiority on the 42.195-km race.
The No. 2 and 3 finishers received USD 21,000 and USD 15,000 respectively.
The women’s race was comfortably clinched by last year’s runner-up Mekash in 2:28:08, also off the course record of 2:24:33, set by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer last year. Mekash bagged the top prize of USD 41,000.
It was the eighth time that an Ethiopian woman finished on top in the Mumbai event. In second place was Kenya’s Gladys Kipsoi, on debut, in 2:29:53, while Ethiopia’s Bizunesh Urgesa came third in 2:30:00 and the duo received USD 21,000 and 15,000 respectively.
Ruto later said but for some “joggers” (amateur runners taking part in the marathon) coming in his way, he would surely have broken the course record set by Kiprop.
“Yes (I would have broken the record). There were some joggers who came in the way and I had to move away from them. While running you have to feel free, but I will come again and try breaking the record next year,” he said.
“The weather was fine though it was windy on the bridge (Worli-Bandra Sea Link). But it became warm towards the end. They should start the race early, by 6:30 am.”
The full marathon began at 7:30 am.
Ruto broke away from the lead bunch on the Marine Drive return stretch, and despite increasing his pace a bit, could not dip under the course record.
The new women’s champion Mekash, who broke away from the rest at the 28-km mark, later praised her training stint back home in Addis Ababa, where she practices with a top bunch of distance runners, including London Olympic marathon winner and Ethiopian compatriot Tiki Gelana for her victory.
“I am happy to win the race. I had trained well in Addis Ababa. The weather too helped even though there was some wind. The temperature was not as bad as it was last year. The pacemakers were a great help,” she said.
She, however, said the slower running amateur participants were not a big hindrance to her.
Elite athletes’ coordinator Jos Hermens also felt the race organisers need to be a bit more professional next year to enure slow-moving runners don’t come in the way of the elite field.