Cricket may be popular in Mumbai but for the last 12 years the third Sunday of the New Year has been the most awaited date in the maximum city’s sports calendar. It was no different for the 13th time on January 17, 2016, when people didn’t mind even when major arterial road of the maximum city were out-of-bounds for vehicular traffic until the evening. The elite international category had 162 participants, while more than 5000 runners constituted the Indian elite category. First-time Mumbai Marathon runner Gideon Kipketer of Kenya was the men’s winner in 2:08:35 hours and in the process broke the 2013 record of Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop, who, in 2013, had finished the course in 2:09:32. Incidentally, Kiprop finished this year at no. 8 in 2:14:54. The winner among women elite runners was Ethiopia’s Shuko Genemo in 2:27:50; Bornes Kitur of Kenya took the second place in 2:32:00 while Gideon’s sister Valentine Kipketer finished third in 2:34:07. Two Indian runners Kheta Ram and Gopi T went past the 2 hour19 minute Olympic qualifications cut-off time and joined Nitendra Singh Rawat, who was first among Indians. Rawat finished 10th overall in elite category and he had already qualified earlier for Rio Olympic Games by breaking the previous course record of 2:15:48 by Ram Singh Yadav in 2012. Among Indian women, Sudha Singh was first and 7th overall, ahead of Lalita Babar while current marathon national record holder OP Jaisa came third. All three women had already qualified for the upcoming Olympic Games.
The 13th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon brought more than 40,000 runners of all hues on Mumbai’s famous streets. The main event began at the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and in less than 10 minutes, they were already on the otherwise busy Marine Drive. The full marathon route took them to Peddar Road, Worli and via Rajiv Gandhi Worli-Bandra Sea-Link; they went all the way up to Bandra Fire Brigade. It was here that the runners turned around on return course via Bandra-Mahim Creek, Shivaji Park and Prabhadevi. At Worli, they began retracing the course to enter Peddar Road and Marine Drive for one more time before finishing at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
As the main event began in the dark Mumbai morning, Gideon Kipketer set the pace by breaking away from the pack early and kept himself ahead of the front-running bunch. Thousands of Mumbai residents had come out of their homes in the wee hours and lined the long route. They waved at the runners and the first-time Mumbai visitor Kipketer enjoyed himself by waving back and smiling. The Kenyan also kept looking over his shoulder to check if any of his competitors was closing in. Amid excitement and encouragement from bystanders, the runners went by in bunches in the beginning before splintering, when a just a few kilometers remained to the finish line. The eagerly awaited Mumbai Marathon had several categories like; Elite Marathon Amateur Marathon, DHL-Corporate Champion and Police Cup, Half Marathon, Champions with Disability, Senior Citizens’ Run and Dream Run. These events were timed differently by organizers but the serious athletics enthusiasts knew who was running for what. Kipketer finally took a decisive lead, when the runners approached the final climb at Peddar Road on the return leg. By then, the lead bunch was reduced to 5 with Kipketer way ahead of others. These five also included Seboka Dibaba and Marius Kimutai, who finished second and third. Even with 4 kilometers remaining, Kipketer knew he was winning and therefore he began celebrating. The Kenyan crossed the finish line by taking away 57 seconds from Jackson Kiprop’s 2013 record and clocking 2.08.35 hours. Ethiopia’s Seboka Dibaba was second in 02.09.20 while another Kenyan Marius Kimutai at 02.09.39 was third.
India’s Nitendra Singh Rawat was 10th in Elite category with a timing of 02.15.48 but he led the Indian runners. Behind Rawat, Gopi T came steaming in at full speed and by finishing the course in 2:16:15; he was second among Indians and 11th overall. Kheta Ram was third in 2:17:23. Both Gopi and Kheta Ram beat Olympic-qualification cut-off time of 2 hour-19 minutes and therefore, Mumbai Marathon brought additional cheers for them and athletics fans in India.
Among women in elite category, Ethiopia’s Shuko Genemo was first with 2:27:50, ahead of two Kenyans Bornes Kitur and Valentine Kipketer, who finished second and third with 2:32:00 and 2:34:07 respectively. The top Indian woman runner was Sudha Singh, who finished 7th overall with 2:39:28. Behind Sudha at second place was Lalita Babbar in 2:42:55 while national record holder OP Jaisha finished third in 2:42:26. Babbar and Jaisha were 10th and 11th overall.