Mumbai Marathon: Abera, the unexpected Mumbai Marathon champion

Ethiopian Tesfaye Abera stuns Kenyan runners to win the international elite men's race on his first-ever full Mumbai Marathon

An unexpected spike in temperature played spoilsport at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) yesterday. Contrary to expectations that Kenyan men will dominate the elite men’s full marathon event, it was the debutant from Ethiopia, Tesfaye Abera, who emerged as the surprise winner with a timing of 2:09:46 secs in his first-ever full marathon.

Tesfaye Abera is cheered as he approaches the finish line of the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
Tesfaye Abera is cheered as he approaches the finish line of the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande 

Coming second was Ethiopia’s Dereje Debele clocking 2:10:31, but it was 2007 world champion Luke Kibet of Kenya who didn’t let the Ethiopians have a clean sweep with a timing of 2:10:57 to claim the third position. Since 22-year-old Abera had never run a marathon before, he was unable to maintain his pace on an unexpectedly hot and humid day.

Abera had a lead of more than 100m in the last stage of the race but was unable to better the course record of 2:09.32, which was set by Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop in 2013. Pacemakers Edwin Kiptoo of Kenya, Michael Mutai of Kenya and Sibusiso Nzima of South Africa set the pace for the elite athletes. At the Worli end of the Bandra Worli Sea Link, which marks the 15-km distance, the pacesetters were leading the pack of runners with Debele and Abera following them closely.

At St Michael’s Church (Mahim) that marked the halfway mark of the marathon, it was the elite athletes who took over with the timing at that stage reading an optimal 1:04:15. It was near Shree Siddhivinayak Temple (Prabhadevi) that Abera increased his pace and led a group of three, which included Debele and Kibet. From the 35-km mark onwards, Abera was way ahead of Debele and Kibet and could be seen constantly looking back to check on the other two runners.

Finally, at Babulnath temple, Abera slowed down only to increase the pace in the last stretch from Marine Drive till the finish line at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Unfortunately, Abera fell short by 14 seconds in his bid to break the course record. Surprisingly, pace-setter Mutai finished fourth with a timing of 2:14:31.

Ruto flops
Last year’s winner Evans Ruto of Kenya couldn’t take the heat and finished 10th with a timing of 2:18:17. Meanwhile, others like Kenya’s Henry Sugut, Jacob Cheshari and Felix Kiprotich dropped out of the race due to stomach problems or dehydration.

"I didn’t feel the heat or the pressure. I had a good race today and am happy that I won. I was not worried about the record as my aim was just to complete the race," said Abera, who graduated from being a 15km runner. When asked how he would spend the prize money of USD 41,000 (Rs 25,26,458), he said: "I will use the money to buy a house in my hometown."

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