Mumbai, Jan 4 (IANS) Defending champions Cosmas Lagat and Worknesh Alemu will return to the Tata Mumbai Marathon which will take place on January 19.
Kenya’s Lagat won 12 months ago in decisive fashion when he broke away from the rest of the leading pack around 29 kilometres into the race. He was out on his own over the final 13 kilometres, almost a third of the race, before crossing the line in 2:09:15, the second fastest winning time in the history of Mumbai Marathon.
Having come home just 40 seconds outside the course record of 2:08:35, set by his compatriot Gideon Kipketer in 2016, Lagat will be back on the start line in Mumbai motivated not only by the possibility of pocketing another $45,000 first prize cheque but also the $15,000 on offer for a course record.
Lagat will be aiming to become just the second man to win back-to-back a Mumbai Marathon titles in the race’s 17-year history, following in the footsteps of fellow Kenyan John Kelai who won in 2007 and 2008.
Race promoters Procam International have signed up no less than 14 men who have run faster than 2:10:00, making it the strongest marathon ever to be staged in India.
Of those men, nine have run faster than the course record during their careers and six have run under the super-elite benchmark of 2:07:00.
The four fastest men in the field are all Ethiopians, led by Ayele Abshero who has a personal best of 2:04:23 and although that time came almost eight years ago, when he won the Dubai Marathon, he showed that he is still a very competitive runner at the highest level by taking second place in the Hamburg Marathon in 2:08:26 last April.
Like Lagat, Ethiopia’s Alemu upset the pre-race form book in 2019 and won in Mumbai in a personal best of 2:25:25, which was also the second fastest winning time in Tata Mumbai Marathon history.
She improved her best to 2:24:42 later in 2019 when finishing sixth at the Amsterdam Marathon in October. Alemu heads a very strong women’s field that has eight women who have run under 2:28:00.
The fastest women in the field is another Ethiopian, Amane Beriso, who had a stunning marathon debut when she ran 2:20:48 for second place in the 2016 Dubai Marathon, which placed her third on that year’s world list.
Beriso took a break from competitive running last year so it will be interesting to see what sort of form she will bring to her first race in 15 months.
All the leading women will have as their target the course record of 2:24:33 set by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer in 2013.
Approximately, 50,000 runners will take to the roads in Mumbai for six different races in what has become a traditional annual event in the city on the third Sunday of January.