Indian long-distance runners have a separate prize money category at the Mumbai Marathon 2019, as an incentive when pitted against the elite runners from Africa and other nations. With every year, the better-prepared locals are able to get closer to the foreign pros in overall positions.
Olympic marathoner Thonakal Gopi, for example, finished 11th overall in 2017 with a time of two hours, 16 minutes, 51 seconds and is mentally geared up to test himself against the competition. The IAAF World Athletics Championships this September in Doha is added motivation to perform for the athlete from the Army.
He explained that workout for the Mumbai Marathon is different due to the Worlds, compared to preparations a year ago. "I have increased the long runs in a week, my gym work also has increased. Every week, my mileage is now around 190 kms." The Sports Authority of India’s Kengeri complex is the training base.
Making his third appearance in Mumbai, best Indian finisher in 2017 is happy to have made a name in marathon running. "I came into marathon running earlier than expected, the 2016 performance changed my priorities. I have gained acceptance in public as a marathoner. All the hard work is paying off."
Starting off by setting the pace for fellow runners from Pune’s Army Sports Institute (ASI) on his first attempt, Gopi bettered the course mark (2:16:59) of Ram Singh Yadav, made the grade for Rio Olympics on Mumbai debut. He returns to the city as the first Indian to pull off numerous feats, like winning the Asian Marathon in China last yer (2:15:48) and fastest Indian at Rio (2:15:25).
Asked about the changes in his life so far, Gopi said: "I am still the same person. Nothing has changed within me, people look at me differently, as someone who became famous after running a marathon.” Qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games is a milestone for the armyman, winning the Asian title puts him in line for promotions and respect in the ranks.
Back home in Wayanad, football and cricket dominates kids’ minds, the neighbourhood goes abuzz about the marathoner in their midst in January when the Mumbai race is in the news. Long-distance running in a lonely routine, though he has made friends. “I mix around when time permits at Bengaluru, Jinson Johnson (2018 Asian Games sensation) is a close friend,” revealed the 2018 champion, defending his title on Sunday, eyeing another personal best.
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