Cosmas Lagat of Kenya and Worknesh Alemu of Ethiopia surprised pre-race favourites to win the men’s and women’s crowns respectively in the USD 405,000 Tata Mumbai Marathon here on Sunday. Lagat, winner of the Sevilla Marathon in 2016, made the 42.195-km race in this coastal city his own over the last 10 km to storm his way home in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 15 seconds, the second-best in the 16-year history of the race.
The course record of 2:08:35 of his own Kenyan compatriot Gideon Kipketar, done in 2016, just about survived the long-legged Lagat’s onslaught after he had left behind all his rivals, including pre-race favourite Abera Kuma of Ethiopia well behind his wake.
In second place was Aychew Bantie of Ethiopia in 2:10:05 while Akalnew Shumet, also from Ethiopia, took the third spot in 2:10:14.
The man with the best time going into the race, Kuma, finished seventh in 2:13:10 after he was with the lead bunch of ten runners, including some pacers, on the sea link after 19 kms before the bunch split up.
“I did not think of course record and only winning was on my mind,” said Kenyan Lagat who was a pacemaker in the 2012 London Olympics and started running when in primary school.
The women’s race also became a one-horse course over the last 5 km once Ethiopian Alemu split the field with 12 km left in the race.
Finally, she came home all alone well in front of the others, including pre-race favourite, compatriot and defending champion Amane Gobena, in 2:25:45 which was outside the course record.
Gobena came in second in 2:26:09 while another Ethiopian woman, Birke Debele, was third in 2:26:39 to mark a clean sweep for the African nation.
Significantly, India’s Sudha Singh finished on top among the Indian runners while setting a personal best of 2:34:56, but also dipped well under the qualifying mark of 2:37:00 set by IAAF for the September-October Doha World Championships.
The woman athlete, a 3,000m steeplechase specialist and winner of gold and silver medals in two Asian Games, finished 8th overall, ahead of former champion Dinkesh Mekash of Ethiopia who finished in 9th spot in 2:36:31.
Her earlier personal best in the marathon was 2:35:35 that she clocked while finishing 19th in the 2015 Beijing World Championships.
The Indian Railways athlete also bettered the national course record of 2:37:29, which previously stood in the name of O P Jaisha since 2015. This was her third best finish among Indians bringing her on par with Lalita Babar, who did it three times in a row between 2012 and 2014.
“I am coming to the Mumbai Marathon for the first time and am happy with the result,” said womens race winner Worknesh Alemu, for whom this was her second title in six attempts with the first one coming in Morocco in 2017.
Men’s marathon: 1. Cosmas Lagat (Kenya) 2:09:15, 2. Aychew Bentie (Ethiopia) 2:10:05, 3. Shumet Akalnew (Ethiopia) 2:10:14.
Women’s marathon: 1. Worknesh Alemu (Ethiopia) 2:25:45, 2. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) 2:26:09, 3. Birke Debele (Ethiopia) 2:26:39), 8. Sudha Singh (India) 2:34:56.