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Kenyans dominate Mumbai Marathon field

January 07, 2009 20:17 IST

Defending champion John Kelai will be the cynosure of all eyes as the Kenyan would be aiming to make it a hat-trick of victories in the 2009 edition of Mumbai Marathon, to be held on January 18.

The marathon itself will be the centre of attention as the city aims to get back on the track after the recent terror attacks that killed nearly 180 people in November last year.

Sanjay Barve, Joint Police Commissioner, Traffic (Mumbai Police) rightly called it as a "special event for Mumbai" and urged the citizens to come out in large numbers and support the event.

"This is a special event for us coming in the wake of a major incident. Mumbai shall run and I am sure it will be a great success. The city should run in the memory of the heroes who have laid down their lives and to the never-dying spirit of Mumbai," Barve said in Mumbai on Wednesday at an event to share the details of the route of the sixth edition of the marathon.

He further stressed that the organisers along with the city administrators would be keep a tight vigil on the security for the marathon, which would feature some of the top international performers.

As far as the race is concerned, Kelai will be looking to lower the mark he set in 2008 when he clocked 2:12:22. He would also be aiming to further lower that time to break the existing course record of 2:12:03 set by Daniel Rono in 2006.

Kelai will face a strong challenge from countryman Japhet Kosgei, who has a personal best of 2:07:00.

The other big names in the men's field are Simon Munyutu, who clocked 2:09 in Paris and Ukraine's Olexander Kukin, who boasts a best of 2:07 and enjoys running in hot conditions.

Moroccan Adrerahime Bouramdane with a best of 2:08:20 set in 2007 and Russian Oleg Kulkov with a best of 2:11 are the other athletes of note.

The women's field is also spearheaded by Kenyans. Former London Marathon winner Margaret Okeyo, who is making her debut and has a best of 2:25, will be the favourite.

She will be pushed hard by fellow Kenyan Lenah Cheruiyot, who ran 2:26 in Paris last year.

The Ethiopian challenge will be led by Shitaye Gemechu (2:26) and Leila Aman, while Russian Irina Permitina (2:26:51) and China's Xin Zhang (2:26:32) are also strong challengers.

The organisers said their goal now is to try and upgrade the event to the prestigious IAAF Gold Label standard and in this regard, the field assembled by Elite Athletes Co-ordinator Ian Ladbrooke is the best ever in it's six-year history.

From the security point of view, the organisers said around 800 policemen will be guarding the entire route along with an additional 750 private security guards.

The Traffic Police will also field more 800 officers to help with the traffic curbs and control, while around 1000 volunteers will be on duty to ensure smooth functioning of the event which will see nearly 35,000 people take part in the seven kilometres Dream Run.

Furthermore, there will be metal detectors at all the entrances to Azad Maidan, the venue of the Mumbai Marathon.

Harish Kotian