Mumbai, Jan 17: African runners are once again expected to sweep the stakes in the USD 3,60,000 prize money 12th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon tomorrow with Kenyan men and Ethiopian women favoured to clinch the top honours.
While Kenya, barring a few occasions, have dominated the men's race, Ethiopian women have done likewise and tomorrow's run is expected to be a repeat of this scenario. Evans Ruto of Kenya and Dinknesh Mekash of Ethiopia have returned to defend their men's and women's titles respectively, but they can expect some very stiff competition from quite a few challengers.
Ruto missed equalling the course record set by Ugandan James Kiprop, one of the few to break the Kenyan title stranglehold in the past, of 2:09:32 by just one second while breasting the tape first last year and is a strong contender for the title this time around too.
Ruto, with a personal best of 2:07:49 clocked two years ago, is expected to face cut-throat competition from compatriot Henry Sugut, the three-time winner of the Vienna Marathon with a career high time of 2:06:58, as well as 2007 world champion Luke Kibet.
There are also others like Jacob Cheshari (Kenya), Derehe Debele (Ethiopia) and Felix Kiprotich (Kenya) capable of emerging winners as all have clocked sub-2:09 in their careers, though in different climatic and course conditions.
In women's race, Mekash - who triumphed last year after finishing second behind champion V Kipketer of Kenya in 2013 - is the favourite to defend her title. Last year's runner-up Gladys Kipsoi of Kenya can press her hard, as also Ethiopian compatriots Marta Megra and Radiya Adilo - all of who have sub 2:30 as their personal bests.
Significantly, Ethiopians have dominated the women's races in the past and to such an extent that in 2012 and 2010 the top dozen finishers were from that country, while in 2011 the figure for the African nation was 1-7 places. The winners of both men's and women's races would become richer by USD 41,000 each.