East African men runners and a large group of India’s elite runners from the Services will pound the city’s streets over a stretch of 26 miles 385 yards on Sunday morning in pursuit of the top prize money of $ 41,000 in the $ 360,000 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2014. The race will be flagged off from outside the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and it would end almost there.

The Mumbai event is a winter marathon created to ensure a fast time and to a large extent this has been achieved in the last decade with a handful of Kenyans, an Ethiopian and Ugandan demonstrating power and endurance by whittling down the timing from a high of 2.15.47 seconds by South African Ramaala Hendrik in 2004 to a course record of 2.09.32 seconds by Ugandan Jackson Kiprop last year.

Jos Hermens, a former middle and long distance runner and coordinator for elite overseas athletes for the SCMM `14, ruled out the possibility of the course record of women being lowered tomorrow, but said there is a chance of the men’s course record being improved upon. The elite marathon will be flagged off at 7. 20 am, an hour and ten minutes after the half marathon.

There will be six pace makers in the men’s and two in the women’s race. At a press conference last Thursday, Hermens said: `` “I strongly feel that this year’s men’s elite field will be able to break last year’s course record of 2:09.32 as we have a balanced mix of experience and young talent. The weather has been good and I hope it will remain to on Sunday. The pacemakers have been told of a 64 minute (or 64 minute 30 seconds) split time at half way point. No one is going to run away from the pack.’’

The SCMM `14 has in all 16 elite overseas runners whose personal best is below 2.10. This group is led by Kenya’s Evans Cheruiyot who won the 2008 Chicago marathon at 2.06.25 and has done the half marathon under one hour five times. Then,

Ethiopian Eshetu Wendimu has a personal best of 2:06.46 achieved at the 2010 Dubai marathon.

The Ethiopians have made women’s event their own. A Polish girl, a Chinese and Kenyan have won the title once. There are 11 Ethiopians this time and Dinknesh Mekash leads the field with a personal best of 2.25.09. The Kenyan challenge is expected from Eunice Kales and Gladys Kipsoi. Namibia’s Helalia Johannes and Ukraine’s Yuliya Ruban are also in the fray.

India’s top 34 elite men runners and 15 women runners are keen and eager to make an impact. The attraction for them is obviously is the winner’s prize money of Rs. 5 lakh each. Even the tenth placed in the men and women’s group would receive a prize money of Rs. 50,000. Binning Lyngkhoi, the last year’s winner among the Indian finisher’s group at 2.21.51, Elam Singh (No. 3, 2013) and Karan Singh (No. 4, 2013) are determined to repeat their showing. The first three among Indian women finishers Lalita Babbar, Vijaymala Patil and Rohini Raut are also hopeful this time.

The race director Huge Jones of the SCMM since its inception said that the course here is not a natural territory for marathon. He said at a press conference recently that he has tried to ease the severe u-turns this time and hence he is hopeful of a new course record in the men’s on Sunday. Eom

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