Ramu upsets calculations

AVINASH NAIR

Marshet Jimma and K. C. Ramu, the winners.-G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR

LOCAL challenger Kennedy Chinna Ramu won the inaugural Lipton Bangalore International marathon. The 28-year-old Armyman demolished the foreign challenge with a fantastic start to finish effort, to breast the tape after a gruelling 42.195 kms at 2:23.46 seconds.

Pre-race favourites, the Ethiopians — who looked strong till the halfway stage — fell behind one after another to give Ramu a clear run. Abebe Seyoum, Tesgaye Desalgne and Tesfaye Bayu Orgawa took the three places behind the winner. India's Santosh and Channan Singh finished fifth and sixth.

However the three member women's challenge from Ethiopia swept through the top three places with Marshet Jimma winning in a time of 2 hrs 45.34 seconds. Adanech Bayene, Korre Alemu (both Ethiopia) and India's Leelamma Alphonso finished second, third and fourth respectively.

Ramu, who had won the gold in last year's Travancore marathon and was the top Indian finisher at a distant 23rd, in the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon in February this year, won his maiden International event. "I owe this win to my coaches Cuban Hiran Le Madrid and Pritam Singh. They advised me to be in the lead bunch along with the foreign runners and not to concede too much leeway. I did just that," said an ecstatic Ramu.

Ramu to his credit showed fantastic staying powers. Jumping into the lead right from the start, Ramu gave little room for his rivals, but for a brief period nearing the 15 kms mark. Matching strides with his fancied opponents, Ramu hit the Hebbal fly over and kept inching forward. Ethiopian Tesfaye Bayu Orgawa was the first casualty pulling up with a calf muscle at the 19 km mark, but to his credit hobbled in to finish fourth. Just after the halfway mark Tesgaye Desalgne, who looked to be struggling much earlier decided to pull behind and with not much challenge from anybody else ran at a comfortable pace thereafter to finish third.

Abebe Seyoum, the 22-year-old, who had an impressive 2:23.00 in his debut event at Addis 2004, looked the stronger of the three foreigners. But his challenge too lasted only till the first 28 kms and steadily Ramu just upped his pace to leave him behind.

"I was not pushed. But for the half marathoners storming in at the descent of the fly over on the return, I could have finished in a better time," felt Ramu, who was expecting to do the course in around 2:15.00 seconds.

"The course was tough with too many steeps and slopes... and it was very hot," said Ramu and the Ethiopians chorused in unison.

The route had to be changed. After the Australian Bob Braid had marked a circuitous route the first time around. The organisers — Crossover Consultancy — along with the technical support from Karnataka Athletic Association (KAA) then decided to make the route a lot more straighter and flat. Fung Wang-tuk, a Grade `A' measurer from Hong Kong was then summoned to remark the route.

Nathan Clayton, the Beirut based Director of the race, and who claims to have travelled all over the world promoting and conducting the marathons, was pleased with all the aspects leading to the event.

The women's full marathon was a clean sweep by the Ethiopians. Marshet Jimma, the 22-year-old clocked 2 hrs 45.34 sec, two full minutes away from her seventh placed finish at the Mumbai event in February this year, while Adanech Bayene, came second ahead of a flagging Korre Alemu, the oldest of the trio at 32 years.

The Indian challenge was left to seasoned Leelamma Alphonso of Western Railway, Mumbai and the frail Keralite, a former long distance medallist who made a name for herself winning cross country events and now for the past four years on a marathon trail clocked, 3 hrs 16.47 seconds. "My timing as you see is poor, and I wanted to give these foreign runners a run for the money... but it did not materialise. I had to settle for the fourth place and Rs 10,000", said Leelamma, who however had the satisfaction of being the best Indian on view in the distaff side.

Bhagwathi, the CISF runner who had claimed a silver at the Thai marathon last year and again who finished third in the Mumbai event, preferred the half marathon this time. "The money is not good enough for the 42.195 kms" said the Delhi runner who stands barely four feet and weighs hardly 35 kgs. Bhagwathi won the half marathon ahead of Chandraprabha and Neha Agarwal.

The men's half marathon was claimed by yet another Bangalore based runner — Shanawaz of Madras Engineering Group and Centre (MEG). The strong lad had no worries about the prize-money and ran a calculated race to triumph ahead of his fellow Indian challengers Ram Singh Yadav and S. B. Singh.