Defending champions Cosmas Lagat and Worknesh Alemu will return to the Tata Mumbai Marathon, a World Athletics Gold Label road race, on 19 January.
Kenya’s Lagat won 12 months ago in decisive fashion when he broke away from the rest of the leading pack around 29 kilometres into the race. He was out on his own over the final 13 kilometres, almost a third of the race, before crossing the line in 2:09:15, the second fastest winning time in race history.
Having come home just 40 seconds outside the course record of 2:08:35, set by his compatriot Gideon Kipketer in 2016, Lagat will be back on the start line in the City of Dreams motivated not only by the possibility of pocketing another US$45,000 first prize cheque but also the US$15,000 on offer for a course record.
“My Mumbai Marathon win was my best race of 2019 so I have fond memories of running in India, and the experience I got running this race last year will be very important this time,” Lagat said. “Coming so close to the course record, I have thought about what I can do to improve, and I think I can run the first half of the race faster than I did last year.”
Lagat will be aiming to become just the second man to win back-to- back Tata Mumbai Marathon titles in the race’s 17-year history, following in the footsteps of fellow Kenyan John Kelai who won in 2007 and 2008.
Race organisers have signed up no less than 14 men who have run faster than 2:10:00, making it the strongest marathon ever to be staged in India.
Of those men, nine have run faster than the course record during their careers and six have run under the super-elite benchmark of 2:07:00.
The four fastest men in the field are all Ethiopians, led by Ayele Abshero who has a personal best of 2:04:23 and although that time came almost eight years ago, when he won the Dubai Marathon, he showed that he is still a very competitive runner at the highest level by taking second place in the Hamburg Marathon in 2:08:26 last April.
Like Lagat, Ethiopia’s Alemu upset the pre-race form book in 2019 and won in Mumbai in a personal best of 2:25:25, which was also the second fastest winning time in race history.
She improved her best to 2:24:42 later in 2019 when finishing sixth at the Amsterdam Marathon in October.
Alemu heads a very strong women’s field that has eight women who have run under 2:28:00.
The fastest women in the field is another Ethiopian, Amane Beriso, who had a stunning marathon debut when she ran 2:20:48 for second place in the 2016 Dubai Marathon, which placed her third on that year’s world list. She took a break from competitive running last year so it will be interesting to see what form she can bring to her first race in 15 months.
All the leading women will have as their target the course record of 2:24:33 set by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer in 2013.
In addition to the marathon – which has a total prize fund of US$405,000 – there is a half marathon, a 10km race, a Dream Run (5.9km), Senior Citizens Race (4.2km) and a Champions with Disability Race (1.5km). About 50,000 runners are expected to take part.
Phil Minshull (organisers) for World Athletics