Mumbai, Jan 18: Ethiopians Tesfaye Abera, a rank outsider, and defending champion Dinknesh Mekash clinched the men's and women's titles respectiely and the top prize of USD 41,000 in the 12th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon here today.
Abera, basically a 15 and 21-km runner, made his maiden marathon run a memorable one by leaving his rivals - including several Kenyans and compatriot Dereje Debele - in his wake at the 32-km mark to storm to the finish in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 46 seconds, 14 seconds slower than the course record.
Debele was second in 2:10:31 while 2007 world champion Luke Kibet of Kenya finished third in 2:10:57. Mekash, who won last year after having come in second in 2013, left the rest of the field behind at the halfway mark to win the women's competition in 2:30:00, slower than the 2:28:08 and 2:28:46 she had clocked last year and in 2013.
Ethiopian women runners took the first seven slots. India's seasoned track athlete O P Jaisha, running her maiden marathon, and steeplechaser Lalita Babar, last year's fastest Indian woman finisher, took the eighth and ninth slots with Jaisha also breaking a 19-year-old national mark in the process.
Jaisha clocked 2:37:29, thus bettering the age-old national mark of 2:38:10 set by Vally Satyabhama in Chennai in December 21, 1995. Lalita, the 3,000m steeplechase bronze medal winner at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, clocked 2:38:21 while Sudha Singh finished 11th in 2:42.12 and all three Indian women thus qualified for the August World Championship in Beijing by dipping under the 2:44 cut-off mark set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
Among the Indian men, last year's topper Karan Singh retained his position as the best finisher by clocking 2:21:35 to finish overall 11th. Arjun Pradhan - Karan's teammate from the Army Sports Institute, Pune - took the 12th spot clocking 2:22:22. Bahadur Singh Dhoni was the third best among Indian men clocking 2:22:41, to finish 13th overall.
Six-foot, 4-inch tall Abera took control of the men's race after being in the leading bunch of 8-9 runners till the last 10 kms. Keeping his speed between 18-20 km per hour, the 22-year-old Ethiopian - who came into this event after taking part in a 15-km race in The Netherlands - stepped on the gas to lead the rest by a wide margin.
He was on course to dip under the two-year-old course record of 2:09:32 on the Marine Drive stretch, but constantly looked behind to see who was closing the gap and this cost him precious seconds. "I wanted to break the course record in my first marathon but unfortunately could not do so," said the Ethiopian who has run quite a few half marathons.
The race saw a few Kenyans drop out due to rising temeperatures and after being hit by a stomach bug, according to Elite Athletes co-ordinator Jose Hermens. Women's champion Mekash said that after the 35-km mark her calf and back started aching.
"I run in three marathons in a year - in China, Mumbai and Paris," said the 29-year-old Ethiopian whose personal best is 2:25:09 clocked while ending up fourth in 2013 in Paris. Asian Games medalist Kavita Raut of ONGC clinched the women's half marathon, her fourth road race in two months after recovering from a stress fracture in her leg, by clocking 1:19:50. The corresponding men's title was clinched by last year's winner Indrajeet Patel in 1:08:09.
Full marathon: Overall: Men: 1. T Abera (Eth) 2:09:46, 2. D Debele (Eth) 2:10:31; 3. Luke Kibet (Ken) 2:10:57. Women: 1. D Mekash (Eth) 2:30:00, 2. Kumeshi Sichala (Eth) 2:30:56, 3. Marta Megra (Eth) 2:31:45. Indian: Men: 1. Karan Singh 2:21:35, 2. Arjun Pradhan 2:22:22, 3. Bahadur Singh Dhoni 2:22:41.
Women: 1. O P Jaisha 2:37:29, 2. Lalita Babar 2:38:21, 3. Sudha Singh 2:42:12
Half marathon: Men: 1. Indrajeet Patel 1:08:09, Atwa Bhagat 1:08:11, 3. Govind Singh 1:08:14.
Women: 1. Kavita Raut 1:19:50, 2. Eve Bugler (Britain) 1:22:18, 3. Supriya Patil 1:26:48.