Bengaluru Marathon: Jyothi Gawate starts favourite

The 29-year-old, who won with a timing of 2:56.36s last year, said that she was in fine form having triumphed in Hyderabad in August.

(From left) Bahadur Singh Dhoni, Jyothi Gawate, Jyothi Singh and Satyabhan Singh at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on the eve of the Bengaluru Marathon.   -  N. Sudarshan

Defending women’s champion Jyothi Gawate will start as the firm favourite when the Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon gets underway here on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, who won with a timing of 2:56.36s last year, said that she was in fine form having triumphed in Hyderabad in August.

“I want to better last year's time,” said Jyothi. “There is no pressure because of being the winner. I am in good form.”

Jyothi Singh, who finished second behind Gawate in 2015, too exuded confidence, but she would need a massive improvement over her performance of a year ago, when she was slower by almost 20 minutes.

On the men’s side, in the absence of the 2015 winner Rashpal Singh, who is away in Italy preparing for the World Cross Country Championships, Satyabhan Singh is expected to better his second place finish from last year.

“I gave my best in 2015, but unfortunately I couldn’t win,” said Satyabhan. “Rashpal is not here, but we have good runners. I think it will be a close race. My best this season has been 2:21.16s, which I clocked in Meerut. I am trying to better that. A mark near 2:20 will be good.”

In Bahadur Singh Dhoni though, he will have a worthy challenger. After having finished third in the Mumbai Marathon early this year, Dhoni has his eyes set on the next edition. The Bengaluru Marathon, he said, was an important reference point in that journey.

“I want to see how prepared I am,” said Dhoni. “My target is to do well in Mumbai. I haven’t seen much of the course here. But I’ll try and do my best.”