Strong Ethiopian presence for Mumbai Marathon

Strong Ethiopian presence for Mumbai Marathon

Abera Kuma

Ethiopian Abera Kuma, among men, and his compatriot and women's defending champion, Amane Gobena, lead the list of elite runners in this year's Tata Mumbai Marathon on January 20.

The men's list contains four runners who have run under 2:08:00 and 11 under 2:09:00, race organisers Procam International announced on Saturday.

Kuma, 28, ran his personal best of 2:05:50 when finishing second in last year's Rotterdam Marathon and in that sort of form could challenge the course record of 2:08:35 set by Kenya's Gideon Kipketer in 2016.

The Ethiopian is hoping that success in the Mumbai Marathon will help him book a place in the Ethiopian team going to the IAAF World Championships in Doha later this year. He was part of Ethiopian teams at the 2011 and 2013 world championships as well as two IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Kuma will be racing in India for the first time but his younger sister Dibaba Kuma, who was an impressive winner at the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K last month, has already taken part here.

One man who has experience of Mumbai and India, having raced in the country several times before, is Bahrain's Shumi Dechasa, who finished fourth in last year's race.

The 29-year-old Dechasa is the second fastest man in the field with a best of 2:06:43 and has been a top 15-finisher at the last two world championships, including fifth place in 2015.

He will be looking to make the podium after the disappointment of just missing out on a top-three place 12 months ago.

Another runner to highlight in this year's in men's elite field is Ethiopia's Aychew Bantie who finished fifth last year. No less than nine men in this year's race have personal bests faster than the course record and will be motivated by the fact that a USD 45,000 first prize cheque, for both men and women, is on offer in India's richest road race.

Amane Gobena is not only the defending champion in Mumbai but will also be the fastest woman on the start line opposite the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT).

Now 36, the Ethiopian is still a force to be reckoned with. She ran her personal best of 2:21:51 when finishing second in the 2016 Tokyo Marathon and in addition to her win last year she also finished third in the Prague Marathon last year.

The formidable women's course record of 2:24:33 has stood to Kenya's Valentine Kipketer in 2013 but Gobena showed that it could be challenged in 2018 when she ran the second fastest winning time ever, crossing the line in 2:25:49.

Two previous Mumbai women's winners have returned to try to regain their crowns.

The Ethiopian pair of 2016 champion Shuko Genemo who finished third in 2018 but later in the year ran a season's best of 2:26:10 and her two-time predecessor in 2014 and 2015, Dinknesh Mekash, will be part of a large contingent of Ethiopian runners in the women's race, six of whom have run under 2:27:00.

Among that group is the 23-year-old Birke Debele who finished fourth in Mumbai last year but improved her personal best to 2:25:28 when finishing second in the Hamburg Marathon last April.