WHILE AROUND 20 international runners are expected to participate in the Rajkot Marathon 2017, none of the winners of the inaugural race held last year will be there to defend their titles on Sunday, with the organisers saying that some athletes faced visa issues.
By Saturday evening, 16 international athletes had landed in Rajkot. There were eight Kenyans and an equal number of Ethiopians among them. Organisers said that four more were expected to reach the city by late night and participate in the event the next morning. However, Simion Kiplagat Too, the winner of the men’s category of Rajkot Half Marathon, 2016 and Estegenet Mola Zegeye, the winner of the women’s category last year were not among the group. The organisers said that while Too, a Kenyan runner received his visa late, Ethiopian Zegeye had not responded to their invitation.
“Simion Too informed us that he received his visa only on Thursday and that no flight tickets to India were available that day. He said he was eager to come to Rajkot and run but for the short time to reach reach India. On the other hand, Zegeye has not responded to our invitation. It’s possible that she could be travelling to some other country and running there,” Rajkot Marathon race director Lihas Trivedi told The Sunday Express.
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The Race director said that they had invited 39 athletes from Ethiopia and 12 from Kenya. “At least 14 athletes from Ethiopia and six from Kenya told us that they faced issues in securing Indian visa and therefore, they won’t able to make it to Rajkot,” Trivedi added without specifying issues the athletes faced to secure visa.
There are four other categories also and organisers claim that 63,594 persons have registered in the total six categories of the event. This makes Rajkot Marathon the biggest in India, beating Mumbai and Delhi in terms of number of participants, organisers claim and the second largest in Asia after Hong Kong. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is scheduled to flag off the marathon from Race Course ground at 5:15 am on Sunday.
The only athlete who finished in top five last year and is here this time round also is 26-year-old Brigid Kimitwai from Kenya. She is high on confidence after winning the Pune half-marathon a week ago. But in Rajkot, she will line up for the longer distance. “The full marathon offers better reward in terms of prize money, plus I want to test my abilities for future events. Therefore, though I won Pune half-marathon, I have preferred to run the full marathon here,” said Brigid.
The winners of full marathon in Rajkot, both in the men’s and women’s categories, will get about $3,730 (Rs 2.5 lakh) each as prize. But the prize money for the winners of half-marathon is about $1,490 (Rs1 lakh) only. The total prize money of Rajkot Marathon 2017 is about $35,000 or Rs23.5 lakh.