Kenyan pacemaker Gideon Kipketer won the men's race in an expected all-East African clean sweep of the podium by setting a new course record in the 13th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday.
Kipketer, who started the race as a pace setter, decided to continue till the end after taking over the sole lead midway through the return leg of the race and stopped the clock at 2:08:35, shaving almost a full second off the 2013 record of 2:09:32 set by Ugandan Jackson Kiprop.
Gideon Kipketer, winner of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon - 2016. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Kiprop, who won USD 56,000, including the bonus for breaking the course record worth USD 15,000, was followed home in second place by Ethiopia's Seboka Dibaba in 2:09:20 and Marius Kimutai of Kenya (2:09:39).
The corresponding women's crown was clinched by Ethiopian runner Shuko Genemo in 2:27:50, well off the 2:24 course record set in 2013 by Kenya's Valentine Kipketer, sister of the winner of the men's race.
In second place was Kenya's Bornes Kitur (2:32:00), while Valentine, whose shoe lace got untied at the 29-km mark when she was closely trailing the winner, finished a distant third in 2:34:07.
For India, the highlight was the breaking of the four-year-old home country's course record of 2:16:59 by two Army Sports Institute of Pune runners - Nitendra Singh Rawat and pacemaker Gopi T - and the Rio Olympic Games qualifying mark bettered by this duo as well as by another ASI competitor, Kheta Ram.
Uttarkhand's Rawat, who had already qualified for the Olympics at the World Military Games in South Korea, did better than that as well as setting a new record when he finished overall 10th in a creditable 2:15:48.
Kerala's Gopi finished one rung below Rawat in overall 11th place by crossing the finish line in 2:16:15 while Kheta ended up 15th in 2:17:23, also dipping below the 2:19:00 Rio Olympic Games qualifying standard.
Among the Indian women, Sudha Singh got the best spot, 7th, by clocking 2:39:28, thus improving on her show last year, while her distance running compatriots - Lalita Babar and OP Jaisha - ended up in 10th and 11th spots with slow timings of 2:41:55 and 2:43:26.
All three have already qualified through the marathon for Rio, but Lalita and Jaisha today once again ruled out their intention of competing in the 42-km run at the Olympics while Sudha said she will go by the advice of the trio's coach, Nikolai Snesarev of Belarus.
"This is my last marathon. I will try and qualify for the 1,500m and 5,000m in Rio," said the 32-year-old 2014 Incheon Asian Games medalist Jaisha who had said the same thing prior to today's race too.
"I am concentrating on the 3,000m steeplechase only. I have however benefited by running the marathon," said Maharashtra athlete Lalita.
Sudha sung a different tune and said though she was also a steeplechaser and was confident of qualifying for it too, she will go by what the Belarussian coach advises her to do in Rio.
"For the last two years we have been training for the marathon without any breaks. I have not done any steeplechase event for one year because I am confident of qualifying. I feel I should listen to what the coach decides for me," she said.
She also said that but for running in the national cross country event, as advised by her employers Railways, she and the other two runners could have done better here.
"We were told to participate by the Railways to take part in the national cross country, in between the Open Nationals and marathon, that affected the preparations a bit as none of us (trio) had trained over the last one week," she said.
Also finishing in the top 15 in the women's race were Swati Gadhave, Kavita Raut, making her debut in the 42-km event, and Jyoti Gawate.
They finished in 12th, 13th and 14th spots respectively by clocking 2:47:34, 2:49:43 and 2:54:20.
Havaldar Rawat, the best finisher among Indian men who ran wearing goggles, complained that because of the joggers coming in the main competitors' way he could not find the water spots between the 21 and 28 km marks.
"I was personally confident after the training we had been put through in the national camp at Ooty by our coach (Surinder Singh) Bhandari. I have to thank him. It feels good (to set a new course record)," said Rawat.
"I was told to set the pace for others till the 30km mark but I felt good and decided to continue. It feels pretty good to finish the race," said Gopi.
Kheta Ram, hailing from Rajasthan, who bettered his time set last October in the Vasai-Virar Marathon by almost five minutes, said the hard five-month training that the trio and others did in Ooty had done a world of good. "The hard work done over the last 3-5 months in Ooty has helped. I wanted to better the old course record, but it did not happen," said Kheta.
Both Kheta and Gopi said they were basically track runners and would try to qualify for the 5,000m and 10,000m for the Rio Games. At the Olympics, only three per country are allowed to take part in a single event.
Also finishing in the top 20 overall in the men's race, between 15 and 20, were Elam Singh (16th in 2:20:02), Md Yunus (17th in 2:20:30), Th Sanjith Luwang (18th in 2:20:51), Rahul Kumar Pal (19th in 2:22:04) and V L Dangi (20th in 2:23:46).
Men's champion Kipketer said that though he had entered the race as a pace setter, once he crossed the 33-km mark well in front of others he decided to continue and finish.
"It's my biggest pay day. I will build a house and buy some more farm. My next marathon will be in April," he said.
Like Rawat, women's winner Genemo also complained that too many people (casual runners) interfered (as she ran).
"The temperature as compared to Europe was on the higher side. The uphills (gradients) were also tough to negotiate," she said.
The results (top 3 positions):
Men's marathon: 1. Gideon Kipketer (Ken) 2:08:35 (New course record), 2. Seboka Dibaba (Eth) 2:09:20, 3. Marius Kimutai (Ken) 2:09:39.
1. Shuko Genemo (Eth) 2:27:50, 2. Bornes Kitur (Ken) 2:32:00, 3. Valentine Kipketer (Ken) 2:34:07.
Men's half marathon:
1. Deepak Bapu Kumbhar (Ind) 01:06:01, 2. A B Belliappa (Ind) 01:06:37, 3. Indrajeet Patel (Ind) 01:06:59.
Women's half marathon:
1. Monika Raut (Ind)1:17:20, Manisha Salunkhe (Ind) 01:19:17, Monika Athare (Ind) 01:20:08.
In pictures: The 2016 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon
Athletes, eminent celebrities and many others from all walks of life competed at the 2016 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. Here is all the action in images... (Click here for photos)