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Cosmas Lagat and Worknesh Alemu triumph at the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019

Kenya’s Cosmas Lagat and Ethiopia’s Worknesh Alemu upset the odds to triumph at the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019, winning in 2:09:15 and 2:25.45 respectively.

Both marks were the second fastest winning times in the history of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race, the pair taking first prize cheques of USD $45,000 in India’s richest road race.

With temperatures higher than expected and reaching 23 degrees Celsius when the gun went, the men’s race naturally started steadily and a large pack of 14 runners – including three pacemakers – went through 10km in 30:53, 20km in 1:02:18 and the halfway point in 1:05:15.

However, Lagat made a decisive surge just before 29 kilometres and quickly put daylight between himself and his rivals as well as partially splitting up the leading pack.

Lagat passed 30km in 1:32:34, assisted by two pacemakers who he kept instructing to go faster, with a chasing pack of seven men 11 seconds behind.

The remaining pacemakers were to drop out at around 32 kilometres but Lagat bravely pressed on and kept on increasing the gap, to almost 40 seconds by 35km, although later he admitted that despite feeling strong, he spent much of the final 10 kilometres running scared.

“It was a good moment to make a break, but I also knew there were good runners behind me and from 35km I was never sure how close there were to me or whether they were coming back to me,” reflected Lagat.

In fact, at 38km he had almost a minute’s lead before Ethiopia’s Aychew Bantie edged away from his compatriot Shumet Akalnew in the closing kilometres to clinch second and reduce the winning margin to 50 seconds by the finish.

Lagat crossed the line in 2:09:15 for his third win over the classic distance in six outings – his other two victories also coming in hot weather conditions in the Spanish city of Sevilla – with Bantie second in 2:10:05 and Akalnew third in 2:10:14.

“I thought Lagat might come back to us, in the last kilometres because he had changed his pace so quickly and he ran so fast (between 29km and 35km) but after 35km I knew I was running for second place,” said Bantie.

Pre-race favourite Abera Kuma, the fastest man in the field with a best of 2:05:50, drifted away from the leading pack just after 30km and was never in contention afterwards for a place on the podium, eventually finishing seventh in 2:13:10

In contrast to the men’s race, the leading women started with a flourish and the sizable leading pack with their male pacemakers went through 10km in 34:28, 20km in 1:08:42.

Four women were still in contention at 30km (no official halfway split given) – Alemu and her Ethiopian compatriots: pe-race favourite Amane Gobena, Birke Debele and Mergetu Alemu – which was passed in 1:43:14, still giving hope that the course record of 2:24:33 set by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer in 2013 could be challenged.

Mergetu Alemu soon dropped off the pace and a couple of kilometres down the road so too did Debele but Gobena hung until Worknesh Alemu made a second and decisive surge just before the 35km signpost.

Alemu shook off Gobena but given the credentials of her rival and the intensity of the conditions, with temperatures by now having risen to 26 degrees, nothing was certain but she maintained her focus to clock an impressive personal best of 2:25:45 and finishing 24 seconds ahead of the 2018 Tata Mumbai Marathon champion, who finished second in 2:26:09 despite later saying that she had been suffering from stomach problems over the final 10 kilometres.

Debele hung on for third in 2:26:39 as Ethiopian runners filled the first seven slots.

India’s Sudha Singh finished eighth in 2:34:56, an Indian best in Mumbai, a personal best and the second fastest time by an Indian woman ever, just 13 seconds away from the Indian national record.

It was a great day for the Indian runners both Nitendra Singh Rawat and Sudha Singh, the men's and women's winners respectively, who clocked timings which enabled them to qualify for the IAAF World Championships in Doha.

While Nitendra Singh Rawat comfortably clocked 2:15:52 in the men’s race, he missed the course record by mere four seconds. His teammate Gopi Thonakkal, however, had a forgettable day as he developed cramps en route, but managed to clock 2:17:03 to finish second among the Indian runners.  Karan Singh, winner of the Mumbai Marathon in 2014 and 2015 finished third 2:20:10. 

In the women's category, Sudha Singh clocked her personal best 2:34:56 to finish eighth overall and best among the Indian women runners here, but missed the Indian best in this event by mere 13 seconds.  The national record in this event stands in the name of O.P. Jaisha, who clocked 2:34:43 during the World championships in Beijing four years ago.

However, Jaisha’s Mumbai course record of 2:37:29 got a beating today and Sudha pockets an additional INR 200,000 bonus amount as Course Record Jackpot. Two-time Mumbai marathonwinner, Jyoti Gawte, finished second clocking 2:45:48 and Jigmet Dolma from Ladakh managed to secure the second-runner up position with the timing of 3:10:42.

Rawat, who has happy to have qualified for the World Championships, said: “The pacers that were given to us were really good. We were faster than the pace that we set in the beginning, which would have helped us with the better timings. However, certain ups and downs post the half-way mark were the reasons for a slightly lower timing."

Rawat and Gopi ran together till the 29-km mark, post which Gopi took the lead. However, Rawat got a win by increasing the pace at the final stretch.

Gopi said: “My preparation was good, and accordingly I was expecting a better timing. After 35 minutes, I felt that my calf muscle got tight because of which I had to stop in between and begin again. I just had one thing in mind and that was to finish the run. However, I could not put in a lot of efforts as the injury affected my pace."

Leading results

Overall Marathon Elite Men : Cosmas Lagat (KEN) 02:09:15; Aychew Bantie (ETH) 02:10:05; Shumet Akalnew (ETH) 02:10:14; Daniel (ETH) 02:10:55; Ayenew Mekuant (ETH) 02:11:16; Silas Too (KEN) 02:12:08; Abera Kuma (ETH) 02:13:10; Deresa Geleta (ETH) 02:13:11; Kipkenoi Kipsang (KEN) 02:14:44; Douglas Chebii (KEN) 02:15:28.

Overall Marathon Elite Women: Worknesh Alemu (ETH) 02:25:45; Amane Gobena (ETH) 02:26:09; Birke Debele (ETH) 02:26:39; Mergertu Alemu (ETH) 02:31:00; Almaz Negede (ETH) 02:31:45; Menesech Tsegaye (ETH) 02:32:45; Zinash Gerado (ETH) 02:34:32; Sudha Singh (IND) 02:34:56; Dinknesh Mekash (ETH) 02:36:31; Khishigsaikhan Galbadrakh (MNG) 02:45:22.

Marathon Indian Men: Nitendra Singh Rawat 02:15:52 (IND); Gopi Thonakal (IND) 02:17:03; Karan Singh (IND) 02:20:10; Rashpal Singh (IND) 02:21:01; Bahadur Singh (IND) 02:21:12; Lal Jee Yadav (IND) 02:26:20; Durga Bahadur Budha (IND) 02:26:57; Mohit Rathore (IND) 02:28:47; Pradeep Singh Chaudhary (IND) 02:32:01; Sanvroo Yadav (IND) 02:33:39.

Marathon Indian Women: Sudha Singh 02:34:55; Jyoti Gawte 02:45:48; Jigmet Dolma 03:10:42; Rani Yadav 03:12:26; Tsetan Dolkar 03:13:13; Seema 03:17:24;

Indian Half Marathon Men: Srinu Bugatha 01:05:49; Shankar Man Thapa 01:06:07; Kalidas Hirave 01:06:38; Man Singh 01:07:06; Balliappa A. B. 01:07:11.

Indian Half Marathon Women: Meenu 01:18:05; Saigeeta Naik 01:19:01; Manju Yadav 01:25:11; Sudha Pal 01:31:14; Arati Dudhe 01:32:46.

Run In Costume:

Individual Winners -

1st - Happy Toy Banker (Encourage Children to Play Outdoors)

2nd - Viraat Sinh (Deforestation & Habitat Loss)

3rd - Ameeta Kantrod (Different Faces of Women)

Group Winners - 

1st - Shrimad Raj Chandra Love and Care (Spinning the Yarn of Love and Care)

2nd - Samarpan Meditation Yoga Prabha Bharati Seva Sanstha Trust (Master Your thoughts, Master your life)

3rd - Sparsh Charitable Trust (Right to Play).

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