OP Jaisha had a debut to remember at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon as she broke the women's national record by clocking a time of 2:37:29 yesterday.
OP Jaisha and Lalita Babar celebrate after completing the marathon yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Jaisha overhauled the 19-year-old national mark of 2:39:10 set by Vally Satyabhama on December 21, 1995, in Chennai. Jaisha, a 2014 Incheon Asian Games bronze medallist in 1,500m, also qualified for the World Championships in Beijing in August along with Lalita Babar (2:38:21) and Sudha Singh (2:42:12). The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) qualifying standard for World Championships for women's marathon is 2:44:00.
"As I am not a roadrunner and ran this far for the first time, it feels very nice to win the race in such less time," said Jaisha, was had already qualified for the 5000m run at the World Championships. The win has also given Jaisha and Lalita a chance to compete at the New York City Marathon later this year without any expense.
Jaisha, who competes in the 1500m, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase, and 5000m events, was ecstatic at finishing the race in a record time, but felt the timing could be better if the marathon starts early than its current scheduled timing. "I am happy to break a record that's almost two decades old but if the marathon (which starts at 7:20 am) begins 45 to 90 minutes early then definitely we could have bettered our timings by three to four minutes," she said.
India's middle and long distance coach Dr Nikolai Snesarev too agreed with Jaisha. "I feel if the race starts an hour early, there will be an improvement in timings in all events. Lower timings will encourage many foreign marathoners to participate in this event," said Snesarev, who coaches Jaisha and Lalita.
Jaisha said she wouldn't have been able to compete in Mumbai without the motivation of her coach, "Before the race, Nikolai sir said that he wants to see me running with the lead runners for the first 18-25 kms. That encouraged me to do much better which resulted in my timing," she said.
"I am confident of doing well in the future under him. I just trained for two months for this event and did so well. I believe, with more than a year to go, I can do much better in the Rio Olympics under him," she added.
Last year's women's winner from the Indian section, Lalita, who bettered her timing by almost 12 minutes, said: "I was unwell after the Asian Games and so I had to take a month's rest. I have also lost a lot of weight due to my illness. But overall I am happy that I could come and improve in such a short time."
Meanwhile, despite finishing first, Jaisha was unhappy with the facilities athletes receive in India. "The athletes in our country have to run from place to place for documentation work. Not only that, we are not given training facilities, whereas there is also no proper planning. We rarely see anyone sponsoring athletics," she rued.
Snesarev said Jaisha and Lalita need to be looked after better by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). "These are the most talented and dedicated girls (in India). These girls have the best chance of winning medals in the 2016 Olympic Games," he said.