A bold runner

Mungara and Kebebush (below) ... winners of the Mumbai marathon.-PICS: VIVEK BENDRE Mungara and Kebebush (below) ... winners of the Mumbai marathon.

Kenneth Mungara is a shy person. But once he gets into action, there is no stopping this Kenyan who stamped his class in the Mumbai marathon recently. By Nandakumar Marar.

Kenneth Mungara is bashful when you ask him his age. He is vague when you ask for details pertaining to his background. He is surprisingly shy for an athlete who has won three marathons — the Prague 2008, Toronto 2008 and the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2009 — in six appearances worldwide. And having won the Mumbai marathon recently in a course record time of 2:11.51, the Kenyan will be on the shopping list of international marathon organisers.

Mungara is a bold runner, game to taking risks as evident by his surging into the lead at the 24-kilometre mark and dictating the pace of the race till the finish. “I went for the record as I was confident about myself,” stressed the champion, whose career timings achieved so far suggest that he is in for bigger pay checks than the $31,000 he won on debut in Mumbai and more appearance money in future races. A career-best 2:10:13 recorded in Mombasa and the 2:11:01 clocked in the 2008 Toronto marathon are indications that Mungara will soon become the focus of media attention.

Another Kenyan, John Kelai — he won the Mumbai Marathon in 2007 and 2008 — touched upon the change in his life brought about by the prize money he won from his back-to-back wins in Mumbai. He has invested in land at home and has enough money left with him to fund the education of his relatives.

Though Kelai finished a distant third in Mumbai this time, behind Mungara and David Tarus, who came in second, he still maintained his composure. “This is the best I could manage. I am delighted Kenyans got the first two places ahead of me.”

Mungara, Tarus and Kelai compete on the marathon circuit, sometimes in the same event like the Toronto 2008. As a result Mungara gets enough opportunities to know about the experiences of his senior countrymen and learn how to convert confidence on the road into fame, attract sponsors and ensure financial stability for self and family.

India’s Ram Singh Yadav finished 11th overall in 2:18:03. The Army Sports Institute runner benefited from the Kenyan presence. “I ran with the Kenyans for 14 kms, then fell back until the 22 km mark when I tried to narrow the gap. We had covered 30 kms and I was still behind them when I noticed one of the Kenyan runners ahead of me, whose name I don’t know, signalling me to come up and run with them. I wondered if my legs would get stiff running at his pace. After matching strides for some time, the running rhythm kept me going till the finish,” said Yadav.

Yadav hopes the timing will gain him a direct entry to the 2010 Commonwealth Games Marathon. This would be some consolation for Yadav, who failed to make it to the Indian contingent for the Beijing Olympics after narrowly missing the qualifying mark set by the Indian Olympic Association.

“Coming to Mumbai and doing well was crucial after failing to qualify for the Olympics. Running with Kenyans and finishing as the best Indian performer for the third consecutive year makes me happy. I am not satisfied with the timing though. I had planned to do 2:16,” said Yadav.

THE RESULTS

Overall — Men: 1. Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) 2:11.51; 2. David Tarus (Kenya) 2:12:02; 3. John Kelai (Kenya) 2:12:23.

Women: 1. Haille Kebebush (Ethiopia) 2:34:08; 2. Marta Marcos (Ethiopia) 2:34:15; 3. Irne Mogaka (Kenya) 2:37:28.

Indian Men: 1. Ram Singh Yadav (11th overall) 2:18:03; 2. Deep Chand Saharan (21st overall) 2:26:01; 3. Narender Singh (23rd overall) 2:26:41.

Women: 1. L. Aruna Devi (22nd overall) 3:09:59; 2. Indresh Dhiraj (25th overall) 3:14:13, 3. Leelamma Alphanso (26th overall) 3:16:26.

Half-Marathon — Men: 1. Surender Singh (India) 1:06:09; 2. Santosh Kumar (India) 1:08:08; 3. B. C. Tilak (India) 1:08:35.

Women: 1. Kavita Raut (India) 1:20:58; 2. Preethi Rao (India) 1:21.23; 3. Vaishali Chatare (India) 1:26:45.