Tata Mumbai Marathon: Kenyan pace-setters for Bugatha

Bugatha clocked one hour, four minutes, 33 seconds at the 2019 Delhi half-marathon and is familiar with the Mumbai course, having finished in 2:23:56s two years ago.

Bugatha is among 16 Indians in the elite men’s category alongside 54 participants from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.   -  RAJEEV BHATT

Two Kenyan pace-setters for Srinu Bugatha, the Indian hope in the elite men’s category, will lend a buzz to the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2020.

Michael Mutai and Mathew Kibarus, two African professionals competing for prize money, have been tasked with pushing the Indian.

Familiar course

Bugatha is among 16 Indians in the elite men’s category alongside 54 participants from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. He clocked one hour, four minutes, 33 seconds at the 2019 Delhi half-marathon and is familiar with the TMM course, having finished in 2:23:56s (14th place) two years ago.

Mutai and Kibarus are also listed as free to finish the race as per their judgement when pace-setting work is over. There have been instances of pace-setters ending up as champions in marathons.

Established steeplechaser and long-distance runner Sudha Singh is aiming for a hat-trick of wins in the Indian women’s category. The winner here in 2018 and 2019 has recovered from a fractured thigh and has been training at NIS Patiala.

“I am fit enough to go for a hat-trick, though I will not be straining myself,” said the two-time Olympian.

Sudha recorded a personal best 2:34:56 in Mumbai last year, topping the Indian category. “Marathons are coming up in February and March outside India and I want to see how far I can go in the competition.”

She rates the Seoul Marathon in March 2020 as the race to come close to Olympic qualifying timings. The Mumbai event is certified by IAAF as a Gold Label race.

Gopi, Sable missing

Thonakal Gopi is a notable name missing from the Indian list. The Rio Olympian has a personal best 2:13:39s and would have benefited from the world-class field assembled by race promoter Procam International.

Steeplechaser Avinash Sable will also not be among the starters, he was supposed to run the men’s half-marathon.

Marathoners looking to gain a Tokyo Olympics berth need to clock 2:29:30s (women) and 2:11:30s (men) to come under the qualifying standard. Marathoners may also qualify via the IAAF World ranking system for January 2019 to May 2020.