Pune, Nov 27 (UNI) A mixture of youth and experience will be the key for the spirited Kenyans who have pitched their top duo of John Mutai and Zachary Kihara, who arrived here today before the 28-member squad (19 men and 9 women) for the Vodafone 22nd Pune International Marathon, to be hosted by the Pune International Marathon Trust (PIMT), which will be held here on December 2.
The Kenyans, a domineering force in the long distance running, have made their mark by winning seven times in the men full marathon (42,195 km) and thrice in women half-marathon (21 km). They will face a stiff challenge from their counterparts from Ethiopia, who have fielded a 24-member squad for the first time in the Pune event.
Of the 14 foreign countries in the fray, the Kenyans and the Ethopians will have the taste of their own medicine from the Europeans and the Indians who have already set their sight for the qualifying mark of 2:18 set for the Beijing Olymics.
The Athletic Federation of India (AFI) has given the Pune event the status of 'National' Marathon, which will feature the cream of marathoners from the country to vie for honurs to book their berth for the Beijing Olympics.
AFI joint secretary Pralhad Sawant, who is also the secretary general of the Pune event, welcomed the Kenyan duo along with Pune Municipal Commissioner Pravinsinh Pardeshi and Maharashtra Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA) Vice President Advocate Abhay Chhajed.
Sawant felt that the sharp competition ahead will set up a new mark in the 22-year old history of the event.
The Kenyan duo, John and Zachary, said despite the rivalry, it is the day that counts for them, as anything could happen in the long distance running.
While talking to UNI, Zachary said he had trained for the past three months in his own town before coming to India along with John to take part in the 10 km race in Hyderabad two days ago.
''If I win at Pune, I will give the whole prize money of Rs three lakh to my father who is looking after the family for the past 50 years,'' he said.
On the other hand, 41-year-old John, the most experienced among the lot, had also been training for the past three months before coming to India. He had clocked his best time of 2:12 at Belfast in 2004.