Chinnappa's fine run

AS and when H. A. Chinnappa looks back on his career as a marathon runner what he would obviously recall is the close and exciting finish which marked his triumph in the second Kerala marathon in Thiruvananthapuram. Unlike last year when D. B. Jayabhai had sewn it up well before the finish, Chinnappa's win this year was peppered with drama as his Services team-mate K. C. Ramu too kept himself in the hunt for the prize booty of Rs. 1,00,000 and a gold medal until the very end. The two were still running neck-and-neck as they got to the Sreepadam Stadium in Attingal — the finishing point — and it was a virtual touch-and-go before Chinnappa took the top spot with a blistering sprint in the final 300m.

Champions: H. A. Chinnappa of Services (marathon), S. Ratheesh of Kollam (Jr 16 km road race) and Madhuri K. Gurnule of Maharashtra (women's 10 km road race) with their medals at the end of the second Kerala marathon, held in Thiruvananthapuram. — Pic. C. RATHEESH KUMAR-

This late surge by the 32-year-old evoked little response from Ramu, who till then had done well to keep his experienced team-mate under check. Chinnappa, after the duo had broken away from the lead group soon after the 35km-mark, had attempted to move away from his rival a little over four kilometres away from the finish. But then, Ramu remained glued to him until 300m was left for the post.

Held in good conditions, what with a early morning rain bringing relief to the runners, the race through its initial part was led by two other Services runners, Mahesh Singh and Bipul Saharia. But soon after the 5 km-mark, the duo was joined by Chinnappa, Shivdan, Ramu, Tamil Nadu's K. Babu, Karnataka's Ramesh Ramappa and Kerala's I. S. Sudheer.

However, Sudheer could hardly cope with the pace of the lead bunch and was soon left behind near the 15 km-mark, precisely three km after Mahesh Singh had met with the same fate. At the 20km-mark, the lead group was made up of just four runners — Chinnappa, Saharia, Ramu and Shivdan — as Ramappa had by then slowed down quite considerably. The four remained together through the next check point at 25 km and then again at the 30 km-mark before Saharia dropped behind in the next two kilometres. Shivdan held on gallantly for a further five kilometres but was soon to be outpaced by the fast-striding Chinnappa and Ramu, who from then on continued to engage themselves in a cat-and-mouse game before Chinnappa finally won the gruelling 42 km 195m event.

A veteran of over 30 marathons, the 32-year-old Chinnappa, was timed at 2:25.07. He was ecstatic as he crossed the finish, and blew kisses to the crowd. "It was just about perfect. The weather conditions were quite good and helpful and I always knew that I had a chance to win if I kept myself in a position to attack the pack towards the end. Thankfully, everything worked in my favour though my legs were stiff initially."

Chinnappa, who had finished third last year behind D. B. Jayabhai and Aravind Kumar, was unhappy on only one count. "With the conditions being so good, I should have returned a better time. The early pace was quite slow as none of us took any chances. Maybe, if I had broken away a bit earlier, I could have bettered my personal best of 2:15."

Ramu, who finished a close second at 2:25.17 and picked up a cheque for Rs. 50,000, said he could have won the event had he taken the lead soon after the 40 km-mark. "I knew in a tight finish that it would be difficult for me to stop Chinnappa from winning. He is such an experienced runner and I am happy that I ran him close." Ramu had finished fifth last year.

It was a memorable outing for Services, which swept the first five positions and six overall in the top 10. Shivdan was third at 2:26.11 while Mahesh Singh (2:27.03) with a late surge pushed last year's runner-up Aravind Kumar to the fifth spot. Shivdan, for his third place, was awarded Rs. 25,000 while Mahesh collected Rs. 10,000. Saharia came behind Aravind Kumar and Uttaranchal's Ram Singh Samant was seventh. The other three places in the top 10 went to Hiralal Ramraj (Northern Railway), Abdul Barek (North East Frontier Railway) and K. Babu (Tamil Nadu). Only 23 runners, out of the 89 who started, completed the race within the cut-off time of 3 hours enforced by the organisers.

Madhuri K. Gurnule, who dashed to Thiruvananthapuram from Pune a day after competing in the Maharashtra State amateur athletics meet, was an easy winner of the women's 10 km road race. The Nagpur-based LIC employee was in the lead almost straightaway in a field of 29 before finishing at an impressive 33:59.9. V. V. Sindhu and S. R. Bindu, both of Kerala, were placed second and third. The 24-year-old Gurnule, a double gold-medallist at the last two editions of the National Games and the 10,000m winner at the recent Federation Cup meet in Hyderabad, picked up Rs. 25,000 and a gold medal for her effortless win while Sindhu and Bindu were awarded Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 5,000 respectively. In the newly-introduced 16 km road race for juniors, an event which was open only to Kerala athletes, S. Ratheesh of Kollam topped the field in 57:02 ahead of V. Sunil (Thiruvananthapuram) and D. V. Amaldev (Alappuzha), after a controversy over the validity of the course taken by Thiruvananthapuram's Santosh Kumar, who had initially come in first. Later, it was found out that Santosh was misguided to the stadium without going through the last two kilometres. He was promptly disqualified and Ratheesh installed as the winner.

The Kerala Assembly Speaker, Vakkom B. Purushothaman, gave away the prizes.

The results:

Men: 1 H. A. Chinnappa (SSCB), 2:25.07, 2. K. C. Ramu (SSCB), 2:25.17, 3. Shivdan (SSCB), 2:26.11, 4. Mahesh Singh (SSCB), 2:27.03.

Juniors: 16 km road race: 1. S. Ratheesh (Kollam), 51:07, 2. V. Sunil (Thiruvananthapuram), 55:39, 3. D. V. Amaldev (Alappuzha), 56:10.

Women: 10 km road race: 1 Madhuri K. Gurnule (Mah), 33:59.9, 2. V. V. Sindhu (Ker), 36:35.7, 3. S. R. Bindu (Ker), 36:57.8.

A. Vinod