Services Sports Control Board runners Shivdan Singh and Bhairo Singh Lone will spearhead the Indian challenge in the Standard Chartered Mumbai International Marathon on Sunday.
Shivdan, who finished third in the Pune International Marathon last year, clocking 2 hours, 23.53 minutes, is the fastest among the Indians while Lone is the most experienced Indian runner, having achieved a creditable seventh place in the Hong Kong Marathon five years ago.
Lone, who has a best timing of 2:25.12, won the Indira marathon at Allahabad and the Thane Mayor Varsha marathon last year apart from winning a silver medal at the Pune Marathon in 2000.
Another Services runner H A Chinnappa (2:25.7) will be the dark horse. All three runners have an equal chance of winning US $2000 top prize for Indian men runners.
Chinnappa won the Kerala Marathon and was placed second in the Thane Mayor Varsha Marathon last year.
Other Indian runners include Pradeepkumar Saini of Ranikhet, Harun Ali of Uttar Pradesh, Mahesh Singh and K C Ramu (both from SSCB) while the women's section will be spearheaded by Leelamma Alfonso of Railways.
However, among the international runners Hendrik Ramaala of South Africa, with a timing of 2:08.58, is fancied to win the men's first prize of US $25,000, with compatriot Johannes Kekana and Belay Wolashe of Ethiopia likely to give him a close fight.
Leonid Shvetsov of Russia, who has the second best time of 2:09.16 hours, and Patrick Chumba of Kenya (best T:2:12.24) are the other front runners in the richest prize-money event of Asia.
In the women's section Esther Kiplagat of Kenya, with a best time of 2:25.32 hours, is a firm favourite while Violletta Uryga of Poland (best time 2:34.44) is expected to give the Kenyans a run for their money. The women's champion will be richer by US $15,000 while the runner-up will take home 12,000 dollars.
In the men's section, the athlete who finishes second will collect US $15,000.
The men's and women's winners in the half marathon (21 kms) will stand to gain US $1,000 each.
Others who could make a mark in the men's section include Getuli Bayo of Tanzania, Eshetu Bekele and Semeretu Alemayehu (both from Ethiopia), Francis Robert Naali of Tanzania, Samson Kosgei, William Kipchumba, Samuel Limo (all from Kenya), Molen Neo and Zondi Brian (both from South Africa), Andre Tarasov of Russia, Fekado Degefu and Bedasso Turbe (both from Ethiopia), Phil Sly of Australia and Mohammed Guennani of France.
In the women's section, Russians Olga Ioginova, Valentina Egorova and Olgo Kopvtina, Mulu Seboka, Tadelech Birra and Keneli Chala (all three from Ethiopia) are capable of upsetting the form book.
The list of celebrity runners include Mike Powell of USA, Josiah Thugwane of South Africa, former 200 and 400 metres Olympic champion Michael Johnson of the United States and Richard Nerurkar of the United Kingdom.