MUMBAI, India- Champion Bornes Kitur of Kenya and her predecessor, 2016 winner; Shuko Genemo, of Ethiopia headline the elite women showdown at the 2018 Tata Mumbai Marathon that will be held on January 21.
Race promoters, Procam International, have drawn up elite fields of impressive depth where four men who have run under 2:07:00 and another five who have run under 2:09:00, as well as six women who have gone faster than 2:29:00 will be at the starting line.
Kitur, who followed up her win in Mumbai by setting a personal best of 2:29:01 when finishing second in the Sydney Marathon in September and is up against it in defending her crown in the IAAF Silver Label race.
Shuko, who is bidding to reclaim the Mumbai title, had a 2017 best of 2:26:06 at the Vienna Marathon and ran under 2:29:00 in her other two marathons last year, including a win in the Ljubljana Marathon in October.
However, the slight favourite in form over the last two years will be the fastest women in the field is another Ethiopian, Amane Gobena.
Now 35, Gobena ran her personal best of 2:21:51 when finishing second in the 2016 Tokyo Marathon and returned to the famous race in the Japanese capital last February where she finished third in 2:23.09.
Countrywomen Kumeshi Sichala (second in 2015) and Tigist Girma (third last year) return to the race having made the podium in the past hoping to use their previous experience of the course to good advantage on race day.
Fireworks are also expected in the corresponding men’s contest in where elite runners will battle for the USD42,000 first prize cheques in what is anticipated to be a spectacular race played out in front of thousands of spectators lining the course in India’s entertainment and financial hub.
Prominent Kenyan runners in the elite field are Joshua Kipkorir and Eliud Barngetuny, who were second and third last year.
However, the fastest runner in the men’s line-up is Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa who can boast of a best of 2:06:22, more than two minutes quicker than the course record.
Deksisa, 23, ran that time when finishing second at the 2016 Rotterdam Marathon and after third place in the Toronto Marathon last October, he will be bidding for his first marathon victory in Mumbai.
Compatriots Chele Dechasa and Abraham Girma, and Bahrain’s Shumi Dechasa, the latter running for his country in the last two IAAF World Championships marathons, are the three other men who have run under 2:07:00 in their careers.
However, pundits are pointing towards two other young Ethiopian runners as perhaps the men to spring a surprise on their ostensibly faster rivals.
Yitayal Atnafu, 24, was the 2011 African U20 5000m champion on the track and set a marathon personal best of 2:07:21 when finishing fourth in the Paris Marathon last year. He also finished second in the Houston Marathon earlier last year and, like Deksisa, will be very motivated to get his first marathon victory.
Aychew Bantie, 23, has few international credentials but clocked 2:09:40 in his one and only marathon to date, a high-quality affair in Amsterdam last October, and will have learnt a lot from that experience.
New era ushered
“We are delighted to welcome on board Tata as our new title sponsor, ushering in a new era for the Mumbai Marathon. It’s fitting as this year we are celebrating the landmark 15th anniversary of this iconic event,” said Vivek Singh, Joint MD of Procam.
“We have yet again increased the overall prize fund, re-inforcing the Tata Mumbai Marathon’s position as one of Asia’s most prestigious road race and one of the leading marathons of the world.
“We have a stronger mens field this year and I think the men’s course record of 2:08:35 (set in 2016 by Kenya’s Gideon Kipketer), will be under threat. The women’s course record of 2:24:33 (set in 2013 by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer) is probably a tougher proposition but far from unbeatable with the calibre of athletes coming here,” added Singh.
Mumbai has a total prize fund of US$405,000 this year having established itself as one of Asia’s leading races over the classic distance since it was inaugurated in 2004.
Approximately 46,000 runners will take to the roads in Mumbai for the six different races in what has become an annual event in the city on the third Sunday of January.
In addition to the marathon, there is a half marathon, Dream Run (6.6km), Senior Citizens Race (4.6km), a Champions with Disability Race (2.4km) and, a new race in 2018, the Timed 10km run.
-Material from organisers used to compile this report