Kheta Ram targets personal best at SCMM

The ASI athlete from Rajasthan is the name to watch among Indian men competing at the SCMM 2017 on Sunday.

Vivek Bendre

Kheta Ram... hoping to do well at the Mumbai Marathon.   -  Vivek Bendre

Kheta Ram is the only male marathoner from Rio 2016 in the fray at the 14th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2017 (SCMM). The Olympian is hoping to bank on experience to overcome a shortfall in preparation for Sunday’s event to be run along the seafront. “I trained for a month and want to make that effort count. After the Rio Games, I took a two-month break and hence did not prepare as extensively like last year,” said the Army Sports Institute runner.

He finished 26th in men’s marathon, which had a world class field, in Rio, clocking a personal best of two hours, 15 minutes and 26 seconds. The ASI athlete from Rajasthan is the name to watch among Indian men competing at the SCMM 2017 on Sunday. Two other Indian male runners at Rio, Thonakal Gopi and Nitendra Rawat have not entered the Mumbai race, leaving Kheta Ram to keep ASI flying high, besides new faces from the army.

Gopi, India’s best performer at Rio with 2:15:25 and 25th in the men’s list on Olympic debut, has taken a break, according to his fellow runner from the Pune-based ASI. Kheta Ram hopes to go under his personal best time in Mumbai, running with the elite marathoners from across the world. “I know the course and want to improve my performance, it all depends on how the race unfolds.” he said. “Gopi ran with the lead pack at Rio, I kept pace with the third pack.”

Read: >Mumbai Marathon 2017: High hopes at high-altitude

Three Indians figuring in the men’s marathon at the Olympics was a rare occurrence, the first time since the 1960 Rome Games when Lal Chand, Jagmal Singh and Ranjit Bhatia competed. On his experience with Gopi and Nitendra at the Olympic Village and on the course, Kheta Ram explained: “We trained and competed as a team. When you are alone at the Olympics, it can be a nervous experience.”

Kheta Ram returned from Rio for a felicitation in Barmer district and is confident the attention inspires youngsters from the State take up athletics. “The Mumbai Marathon last year helped me earn the Olympian label. People in my village and army colleagues appreciated my effort,” said the runner, whose 2:17:23 was the third best effort by an Indian in SCMM 2016, behind Nitendra and Gopi (10th and 11th overall) in Mumbai.

He is confident about Olympic medals from athletics in future. “Sakshi Malik won a medal in wrestling, Sindhu delivered a medal in badminton. Lalita Babar ran well in the steeplechase at Rio. Athletes can win medals, we need support from society and resources to prepare in a more systematic way, under our coaches,” said Kheta Ram, whose target on Sunday is a personal best timing. Nitendra’s 2:15:48 is the course record for Indians in Mumbai.

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