Mumbai: It was a day out for athletes from Ethiopia as they swept past all opponents to rule the Mumbai roads in the 18th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon on Sunday.
The runners from the country also known as Abyssinia ran away with all the positions in the elite women’s section, though Kenyan Philemon Rono spoiled their party in the men’s group taking the second place.
Gopi Thonakkal and Chavi Yadav raced to top the men’s and women’s categories of the Indian section.
Gopi, Wayanad in Kerala, timed 02:16.08 while Chavi Yadav of the Railways stopped the clock at 2:50.35.
Records tumbled in Asia’s most prestigious race as the Ethiopian duo of Hayle Lemi and Anchalem Haymanot created course records to take home the $45,000 winners prize and a course record bonus of $15,000 each.
Lemi took advantage of the slow pace in the first half of the men’s race. The 2016 Boston Marathon winner ran alongside defending champion and countryman Derara Hurisa, Kenyan Philemon Rono, and half a dozen other runners as they passed through the iconic Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link towards the halfway mark.
The women started their race at a fast pace and there was a keen tussle between five Ethiopian runners at the midway stage. Worknesh Alemu, who had won in 2019, drew from her past experience on the course to take the lead at that point. However, Haymanot, a marathon debutant, broke away from Alemu. Rahma Tusa, two times Rome Marathon winner, and 2022 Sydney marathon runner-up Letebrhan Haylay ran shoulder-to-shoulder with her.
“Running along with these two experienced runners with fast timings to their credit was really a challenge, but I gained much experience from them,” Haymanot said after the race.
For the first time, the podium finishers in the women’s section clocked under 2:25, as Tusa (2:24:22) also finished under the previous course record of 2:24:33 held by Valentine Kipketer (Kenya) since 2013.
Gopi made a winning return to competitive action, while Chavi Yadav pulled off a spectacular victory on her marathon debut in the Indian race.
Olympian Gopi, the first Indian male to win the Asian Marathon Championship in 2017, clocked 2:16:41 to finish on top of the domestic Elites and 10th overall in the 18th edition of the $405,000 prize fund World Athletics Gold Label Road Race.
All eyes were on Gopi who was returning to compete after three years following knee surgery. The Army runner did not disappoint and was followed by Man Singh, who was 17 seconds behind, and Kalidas Hirave from Satara.
“It felt good to be back after three years. I maintained a good pace for the first 30-odd kilometres but slowed down towards the end,” Gopi said. “I never give up,” said Gopi, who had won in 2018.
Bhopal’s Chavi said she was running the classic distance for the first time. “I didn’t run more than 25 km even in training,” she said. Arati Patil finished second, over 10 minutes behind, and Renu Singh was third in the Indian women’s section.