The IAAF Gold Label status for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2011 has attracted some of the world’s best male and female elite athletes.

According to Ian Ladbrooke, Elite Athletes Coordinator, this year’s men’s field is the strongest ever, the women’s field is also formidable, setting the stage for a sub-2:10 finish in the men’s and sub-2:30 time in the women’s event if the weather is kind.

Kenyan John Kelai, the Commonwealth Games marathon gold in 2010 and two-time winner in Mumbai (2007 and 2008) leads the men’s elite field, where 10 athletes in the fray have clocked 2:10 or below in the recent past.

Ethiopia’s Bizunesh Urgesa will defend the women’s title as leader of a strong bunch. The women’s field too has 10 runners with personal bests of 2:30 or less.

Among other noteworthy Kenyan men to compete in Mumbai are Evans Rutto and Justus Kipshirchir (personal bests 2:08.36 and 2:10.6 respectively). Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Tola (pb 2:06.57) will be the challenger, Qatar’s Mubarak Shami and Russia’s Oleg Kulkov are also among those in contention.

Women champion Bizunesh will face competition from Haile Kebebush, winner in 2009 and runner-up last year, apart from Kenyans Rose Kosgei and Helen Kimutai.

The richest marathon in Asia, the SCMM 2011 offers an enhanced prize purse of $ 325,000, an increase of $ 15,000 over last year. The increase in prize money is in line with the event’s rising stature, rated as amongst the top ten marathons in the world. The men’s and women’s winners among elite athletes now stand to win $ 36,000 (compared to 31,000 in 2009 and 35,000 in 2010).

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