Kolkata, Dec 17: Ethiopian long-distance runner and current world record and Olympic record holder Kenenisa Bekele strolled past the finish line in his maiden appearance at the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K marathon on Sunday.
In the elite national section, winner Avinash Sable set a course record of 1.15.17, breaking the previous course record of G. Lakshmanan, who came third with a timing of 1.17.13, which is also better than his mark set last year.
Kalidas Hirave came second with 1.16.18, bettering last year’s record of 1.17.23.
Bekele, who holds the world record in both the 5,000 metre and 10,000 metre events, earlier paced his race brilliantly staying in the mix till the 21st km when he broke loose. By the time he was across the finish line, his closest competitor was nowhere in sight. He completed the race with a timing of 1.13.48.
The leading group went through the 7.5 km checkpoint in a sluggish 24:24. Just before halfway, Bekele briefly went through a bad patch and drifted off the back of the leaders, with his compatriot Asefa Diro leading at 12 km in 39:09 and Bekele seven seconds adrift in fifth place.
However, the 35-year old record holder soon got back up with the group containing Diro, Eritrea’s Tsegay Tuemay, Tanzania’s Augustino Sulle and India Sable before surging away with just under 7 km to go.
Bekele’s move almost immediately splintered the leading group with nobody was able to stay with him once he moved into a higher gear.
Tuemay eventually crossed the finish line on Kolkata’s historic Red Road at second place in 1:14:21, with Sulle third in 1:14:41.
“The race was very nice. The course is nice and flat all through. I have been training hard and the results showed. This was my first 25K and it feels good to have won it. It was a tactical race and I paced myself depending on the kind of competition I faced.
“The weather was good, though a little smokey in certain parts. But it was not difficult to manage. I had a great race and would like to come back here next year. Kolkata has been very warm and hospitable and I would like to laud Procam for organising such a well-managed race,” Bekele said.
The Ethiopian however, wished he had a pacemaker to push down his time.
“In a race like this you need a pacemaker, who sets you up for a fast finish. I was pushing myself, but that was not enough. I would have pushed my timing by 90 seconds at least had I a pacemaker.”
In the elite women group, the first place was taken by Ethiopian Degitu Azimeraw with a timing of 1.26.01, followed by Kenyan Helah Kiprop at 1.26.04 and Tanzanian Failuna Matanga with 1.26.11.
In the Indian women’s, L. Surya won with 1.26.53 timing beating Sudha Singh’s course record of 1.27.31 . Manju Yadav came second at 1.32.51, while Jhuma Khatun came third with 1.32.58. All three were from the Railways.
Event Ambassador Sourav Ganguly and International Ambassador Mike Powell were at the starting line to encourage the runners.
“I am thrilled to see so many people come out and run. And the standard of the elite field is also great. The race is competitive and fun to watch,” Powell said.
Following are the final results:
Overall Athlete Men
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 1:13:48; Tsegay Tuemay (ERI) 1:14:29; Augustino Sulle (TAN) 1:14:41; Avinash Sable (IND) 1:15:17; Asefa Diro (KEN) 1:15:37.
Overall Athlete Women
Degitu Azimeraw (ETH) 1:26:01; Helah Kiprop(KEN)1:26:04; Failuna Matanga(TAN) 1:26:11; Dibabe Kuma (ETH) 1:26:28; L. Suriya (IND) 1:26:53.
Overall Indian Athlete Men
Avinash Sable (IND) 1:15:17; Kalidas Hirave (IND) 1:16:18; G Lakshmanan (IND) 1:17:13; Govind Singh (IND) 1:22:19; Mukesh Singh(IND) 1:22:21; Shander Singh(IND) 1:22:28.
Overall Indian Athlete Women
L. Suriya L (IND) 1:26:53; Manju Yadav (IND) 1:32:51; Juma Khatun (IND) 1:32:58; Monika Athare (IND) 1:34:30; Monika Raut (IND) 1:36:08; Jyoti Gawate (IND) 1:38:52.