Records tumbled at the Mumbai Marathon on Sunday, fueled by the city seeing it’s coldest day this season so far.
Ethiopia’s Hayle Lemi bettered the elite men’s course record by more than 30 seconds, comfortably finishing the race in 2:07:32 to better the record of 2:08:09 set in 2020 by Derara Hurisa. Lemi’s compatriot Anchalem Haymanot finished the race in 2:24:15 to better Kenyan Valentine Kipketer’s record of 2:24:33 set in 2013.
Lemi and Anchalem took home prize money of $45,000 as well as a course record bonus of $15,000 each.
Kenyan Philemon Rono finished behind Lemi with a timing of 02:08:44, followed by Hailu Zewdu, who clocked 2:10:23.
Rahma Tusa and Letebrhan Haylay completed an Ethiopian sweep in the women’s event with timings of 2:24:22 and 2:24:52 respectively.
While the cooler temperatures played a massive part in the records being broken, 10 of the men’s elite runners have better personal bests than the previous record.
The temperature in South Mumbai, where the race was held, saw temperatures of 16.2 degrees Celcius while the temperature in Santacruz — near the end of the Bandra-World Sea link – went as low as 13 degrees.
Winner of the 2016 Boston Marathon, Lemi, whose personal best is 2:04:33, said he could’ve gone for a time of two hours and five minutes but since it was his first time running in Mumbai, he was warned by his compatriots who’ve run the race before about the weather becoming slightly unbearable in the latter stages of the race. He was also warned about the difficult uphill route (Peddar road flyover) post the 32km mark.
Lemi, with a hint of regret, said that had he not listened to those warnings, he could’ve run a better race as they didn’t affect him anyway.
“The weather was great. It didn’t get hot like I was told it would. The uphill was also not difficult. In fact, I didn’t know that uphill was the difficult part and I thought maybe it was further in the race so I was conserving my energy. I think I could have finished at least two minutes earlier than I did,” Lemi said at the post-race press conference, adding that he was actually surprised he was able to win as he hadn’t trained completely.
It was a dream debut for Anchalem in the women’s elite race who kept pleading with her pacer to push harder throughout the race.
“This was my first marathon and I won gold. I was nervous regarding the weather and the conditions. Before the start, I didn’t tell myself that I have any hope of winning as the women’s field was very strong but I just stuck to the basics. My whole body was feeling good in the end so I went for the win,” she said.
The elite men and women began their respective races with completely different strategies. While the women pushed from the start and slowed down towards the end, the men’s race began relatively slowly and it was only after the 25km mark that they actually began upping their pace.
After breaking from the rest of the group post the 26km mark, Lemi, Rono and Zewdu climbed Peddar Road together. Seeing that his opponents were struggling to keep up with him, he pushed even more to take a comfortable lead on Marine Drive.
In the women’s race, there were as many as five runners in the lead pack at the midway stage before 2019 champion Worknesh Alemu took the sole lead. She however couldn’t match the drive of Anchalem and Tusa who kept pushing each other till the end.
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