Kolkata: Avinash Sable and L Surya kept the Indian flag fluttering while Birhanu Legese and Dibaba Kuma made an Ethiopian double in the men’s and women’s sections of the Tata Steel Kolkata 25 kilometres marathon here on Sunday.
Legese finished first with a time of 1 hour, 15 minutes and 48 seconds, while fellow countryman Bayelign Yegsaw finished with a time of 1:15:49. In the third position was Kenyian Amos Kipruto with 1:15:52.
The women’s race was won by Ethiopian Dibaba Kuma with a time of 1:27:34, followed by her country mate Ftaw Zeray 1:27:38 and Failuna Matanga of Tanzania clocking 1:27:45.
The run fell way short of the world’s best set by Dennis Kimetto (1:11:18) in 2012 and course record set here last year by Keninisa Bekele of 1:13:48.
It was a day marred by poor timings as all runners in the elite category complained of not being able to finish properly in the finishing 5 km lap due to disturbance from the open category participants, who blocked their way.
Without pacemakers, a large group that included several of the Indian elite runners went through 5 km in a relatively sedate 15:37 with Uganda’s Robert Chemonges and Tanzania’s Augustino Sulle doing most of the work at the front in the early stages of the race.
The pace increased slightly over the next five kms but a group of nine were still together as 10 km was reached in 30:35 and then slowed again as 15 km was passed 45:57, allowing the leading group to increase to 11.
The next five kms saw just three men shaken off with the 20 km split reading 1:01:04. However, if the winning time was now never going to match Kenenisa Bekele’s course record of 1:13:48 from 12 months ago, it did ensure a thrilling finish and that’s what the thousands lining the route of the world’s only IAAF Label Road Race over 25 km were able to witness.
With two km remaining, the two-time Delhi Half Marathon winner Legese put in a surge which splintered the leading group.
His teenage compatriot Bayelign Yegsaw was the only man to follow closely as the rest struggled to stay with the leading pair.
One-by-one the remaining runners dropped away before Legese found another gear over the final 400 metres to fend off Yegsaw, who doesn’t turn 19 until next February and will possibly start as the favourite for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships U20 title next March.
“The race was very good. I am very happy as the weather was good and place to run was also good. I decided to change gears in the last one kilometre, in the last 500 mts I increased my pace and sealed the affair,” Legese said after the race.
The women’s race was pretty evenly poised till the last lap with the Indian elites running toe to toe with their international competitors. In fact at the 10K mark Surya led the pack while in the 15K mark she was just behind eventual winner Kuma.
However, in the last five kilometres the African runners showed their pedigree as distance runners switching gears and taking the pole position with relative ease.
In the elite women it was a shock surprise with defending champion Degitu Azimeraw coming a distant fourth.
In the Indian segment, besides Sable (1:17:11), the other two spots were taken by steeplechaser Srinu Bugatha (1;17:18) and Abhishek Pal (1:18:26).
Suryia defended her title with a timing of 1:28:29, followed by Sudha Singh 1:29:11 and Parul Chaudhury 1:30:18.
The three Indian women also hogged the top 10 positions. The Elite International athletes go home richer by USD 7,500 each, while the elite Indian winners pocket a purse of Rs 2,75,000 each.
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly who has been the event brand ambassador for four years was excited to see around 15000 people run.
Men: Overall: 1 Birhanu Legese (ETH; 1:15:48); 2 Bayelign Yegsaw (ETH; 1:15:49); 3 Amos Kipruto (KEN; 1:15:52).
Indian: 1 Avinash Sable (1:17:11); 2 Srinu Bugatha (1:17:18); 3 Abhishek Pal (1:18:26).
Women: Overall: 1 Dibaba Kuma (ETH; 1:27:34); 2 Ftaw Zeray (ETH; 1:27:38); 3 Failuna Matanga (TAN; 1:27:45).A
Indian: 1 Suriya Loganathan (1:28:29); 2 Sudha Singh (1:29:11); 3 Parul Chaudhary (1:30:18).