Mumbai, Jan 16 (IANS) India’s best long distance runners will be vying for the top spot when they compete alongside world class athletes in the country’s premier 42.195 km race, the Mumbai Marathon, to be held here on Sunday. Leading the pack in the men’s category will be Nitendra Singh Rawat, who made his mark at the recently held World Military Games and qualified for the Rio Olympics. The 2015 Delhi Half Marathon winner is hoping to break the current course record of two hours, 16 minutes and 59 seconds set by 2012 edition winner Ram Singh Yadav when he runs up and down the Mumbai roads from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Bandra via the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link along with others runners. 

“My target will be to break Ram Singh’s record. I will give my best to come out victorious. This Mumbai Marathon will give me the right platform to practice for the upcoming Olympics,” Rawat said. Gopi T., who finished second in the 2015 Delhi Half Marathon, will be gunning for a podium finish in the marathon category here. After clinching the win at the Vasai-Virar Mayor’s Marathon last year, Kheta Ram will compete for the title in the Maximum City as well. Elam Singh, a 31-year-old Army Sports Institute (Pune) athlete and a winner of the 2012 Vasai-Virar edition, will also come out with his best. Among the top Indian women athletes is O.P. Jaisha from Kerala, who is the current marathon national record holder — a feat she achieved here last year. Central Railways’ Lalita Babar, current national record holder in 3,000 metres steeplechase, is a three-time winner here and also one of the top contenders for the title. 

“For the past one year and 10 months I have been training in Ooty and the preparations have been good for the marathon. In Ooty we have been running 230 km per week. I am running in the marathon to sharpen my skills in the race but my main target is the Olympics,” Lalita said. Sudha Singh, a consistent performer in steeplechase events and a 2010 Asian Games gold medallist in the same event, won the half marathon here in 2014 and also finished runner-up in 2014 New Delhi. Reigning half marathon champion Kavita Raut will return this year to try her luck in the main 42 km event. Jaisha, Lalita and Sudha will be representing India at the Rio Olympics. On the other hand, the foreign contestants are most likely to take the top three spots, considering the preparations and previous records. Leading the international pack will be record holders — Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop (men) and Kenyan Valentine Kipketer (women). Kiprop, who is a specialist in marathons, will be a real threat to others, keeping in mind his previous Mumbai records and pace. 

He had earlier finished the race and created a new course record by clocking 2:09:32. Kipketer won the Mumbai Marathon in 2013 with a course record of 2:24:33, which still remains unbeaten. Asia’s richest marathon with a prize money of $3,77,000 will witness a total of 40,285 runners from different corners of the world. Standard Chartered is the title sponsor of the event. This will be the 13th edition of the run which was elevated by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to Gold Label Road Race in 2010.

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