Rio Olympian Kheta Ram, Mohd Yunis and Elam Singh, among men, and Jyoti Gawate, Monica Raut and Monica Athare, among women, are to lead the Indian challenge in the USD 384,000 prize money Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) to be run on January 15.
Kheta Ram had finished in 26th position in the Rio Games in August clocking 2 hours 15 minutes 26 seconds.
Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero and Dinknesh Mekash, a two-time winner, head the elite fields at the 14th SCMM, it was announced at a media conference on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Abshero, a former world junior cross country champion, would be looking to make a big impact on his first trip to India with a personal best time of 2:4:23, the pick among those, who have entered the race.
The SCMM this year will witness 42,679 runners at the start line competing in various events, including the full marathon, for which a total of 6,342 runners have registered.
The half marathon and the dream run have received 14,663 and 19,880 entries respectively.
Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla said distance running has become a big movement in the country.
“This is absolutely fantastic. But today, it has become a movement. That’s more important because that’s where sporting culture gets built, more people come into sport and we will have more winners.”
“Fifteen years ago, there were only 3 to 5 big races, but today there are over 300 small and big runs registered on the website. It’s a whole movement for us,” he said.
Sumariwalla, a council member in the IAAF, informed that world athletics body’s chief, Sebastian Coe, wants Indian athletes to do well.
“They are sending down people from IAAF to train our coaches. We want to get rid of the dependency on foreign coaches. So we have a whole coaches’ programme with Sports Authority of India that will now start in January.
“So when somebody passes NIS degree, along with it he will get the IAAF coaching diploma too. They all will be level 1, level 2, level 3 coaches when they pass out,” he informed.
Bollywood actor John Abraham, who is the marathon’s face, said, “What we have achieved is two things – getting fit and running for a cause.”