Mumbai Marathon: Ethiopians Deksisa, Amane take the honours

Solomon Deksisa won his first title in six races, while compatriot Amane Gobena won the women’s title.

Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa clocked 2.09.34s to win the marathon.   -  Prashant Waydande

Ethiopian Solomon Deksisa lived up to his billing as the firm favourite for the Tata Mumbai Marathon, becoming the second from his country to win the men’s title. He emerged on top in the 26.21-mile long marathon after having staved off challenges from compatriot Shumet Akalnaw and Kenya’s Joshua Kipkorir.

The 23-year-old Ethiopian clocked 2.09.34s, three minutes and 12 seconds off his personal best which was achieved as a runner-up at the Rotterdam marathon two years ago. But Deksisa had enough reason to celebrate as it was his first title win in six races. Amane Gobena made it a memorable day for Ethiopia, winning the women’s title. Both took home USD 42,000.

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Deksisa may not yet have lived up to the likes of legendary marathon runner Abebe Bikila, who ran barefoot, and the magnificent long distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, but he was the cynosure of all eyes once the Elite runners crossed the red-line start near the CSMT.

Hot and humid

The three podium finishers censured the pacesetters from Kenya’s Jacob Kendagor, Uganda’s Ezekiel and South Africa’s Xolisa Tyali for not being up to the mark. In the longest race of the day, they also pointed out amateur runners who strayed from their path and proved to be a hindrance.

On an eventful Sunday, when the temperature hit its peak in the morning hours, Deksisa was all by himself from the 35km mark, shrugging off a gallant attempt by the 29-year-old Akalnaw on the return Marine Drive stretch.

The field comprised runners with excellent credentials to bring down Kenyan Gideon Kipketer’s course record of 2.08.35 set in January 2016. There was much suspense as Deksisa looked at left-hand wrist watch, took a few swigs from the water-bottle and began his final kick on the concrete surface across the Arabian sea, some two kilometres before the finish. But he gave up his pursuit and only kept track of the immediate challenger, Akalnaw. His coach said heat and humidity were a deterrent. “Last year it was 19/20 degrees, this time it was 26,” he said.

‘Expected to win’

Sporting a tricolour headgear, Deksisa said after the race: “I expected to win. This win will motivate me to participate in other races. Shumet was behind me and was close and I was worried. So I did not realise about the turns in the last 700m. I stayed at the back of the front pack when the pacesetters were around, but decided to go ahead after they dropped off the race. They did not do their job.”

According to the top three finishers, the first pacesetter dropped off at the 15km mark, the second at 25 and the third after 28. “They did not run to push us enough,” revealed Kipkorir, who made the first move to break free and stayed ahead till the 29km mark, but let go Deksisa thereafter.

A tussle appeared to be cards when the women’s defending champion from Kenya, Bornes Kitur and Amane, stayed behind the pacesetters, but, from the 25km mark, Amane became the runaway winner. “There were too many people (amateur runners) and I missed drinking water at the 5th, 15th and 30th km mark,” said Bornes.

Results
  • Men Elite: 1. Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia, 2.09.34), 2. Shumet Akalnaw (Ethiopia, 2.10.00), 3. Joshua Kipkorir (Kenya, 2.10.30), 4. Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain, 2.12.24), 5. Bantie Aychew (Ethiopia, 2.12.49)
  • Women Elite: 1. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia, 2.25.49), 2. Bornes Kitur (Kenya, 2.28.48), 3. Shuko Genemo (Ethiopia, 2.29.41), 4. Birke Debele (Ethiopia, 2.29.45), 5. Kaftu Tahir (Ethiopia, 2.35.01)
  • Prize money: 1. USD 42,000; 2. USD 23,000; 3. USD 17,000; 4. USD 12,000; 5. USD 8000.