MUMBAI: Ethiopians Girma Assefa and Koren Yal led a near clean-sweep of the men’s and women’s top three positions in the $325,000 eighth Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon here today besides spearheading a successful assault on the course records in both events.
24-year-old Assefa from Addis Ababa took the men’s honours and also led a 1-2 sweep for the African nation known for its long distance runners by finishing the 42.195-km course from Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus in south Mumbai to suburban Bandra and back in a new mark of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 54 seconds.
His compatriot Botor Segaye Wolde came in second in a tight finish in 2:09:57s, while Kenya’s Patrick Muriuki secured the third position with a timing of 2:10:00s. All three dipped under the two-year course record of 2:11:51 set by Kenyan Kenneth Mungara.
Delhi Commonwealth Games champion and two-time winner John Kelai belied pre-race expectations and finished a poor sixth in 2:11:05s, also under the old course record, in cool weather conditions that helped the runners.
“The weather conditions were good. The pace setters did a good job,” said Assefa, who also went under his previous personal best time of 2:09:58s set in Berlin two years ago. Today, he had run only his fourth marathon and the victory made him richer by $36,000.
In the women’s category, 24-year-old Yal led an all Ethiopian top-three finish to complete the race in 2:26:56, breaking the course record set by countrywoman Mulu Seboka in 2008 and pick up the winner’s prize of $36,000.
Merima Mohammed was second clocking 2:29:04s, while Elfemesh Alemu finished third with a timing of 2:30:04s.
“The weather conditions were good though it became a bit hot later on. It was windy too which was helpful,” said Yal, who idolises her countryman and legendary runner Haile Gebrselassie.
The men’s race was a close one among a bunch of 15 runners. Kenya’s Simon Kasimili set the early pace and led after the six-km stretch, which he retained after 10kms at Haji Ali.
However, at the half-way stage, his compatriot Kipkemei Mutai surged ahead only to be overtaken by Muriuki at the end of the iconic Rajiv Gandhi Bandra-Worli sea-link.
After the end of the 32-km mark, it was Wolde who ran into contention, but Assefa saved enough fuel in his tank to move ahead when it mattered most to clinch the title.