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The big rush

The fifth annual Standard Chartered marathon was dominated by Kenya and Ethiopia — both the men and women’s podiums had only athletes from these countries, reports Barney Henderson.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2008 02:02 IST
Barney Henderson

Mumbai sprinted into the record books on Sunday by hosting India’s biggest ever marathon with more than 33,000 runners hitting the road, transforming the usually gridlocked metropolis into an explosion of colour and life.

The fifth annual Standard Chartered marathon was dominated by Kenya and Ethiopia — both the men and women’s podiums had only athletes from these countries. In a tight men’s race, defending champion John Kelai of Kenya out-sprinted Ethiopian Tariku Jiffar, finishing the 42.195-km full marathon in two hours, 12 minutes and 21 seconds.

Ethiopian Mulu Seboka set a new race record among women with 2:30:03. There were strong performances from Indian runners too, with Surender Singh and Kavita Raut winning men and women’s half-marathons and Ram Singh Yadav achieving an Indian best in the full marathon.

The half-marathoners set off from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus at 6.45 am. The half and full marathon courses followed the city’s west coast to Worli and Bandra respectively, and back. With no cars in sight, the roads were awash with colour and music from roadside brass bands added to the carnival atmosphere.

Mumbai wore its spirit and diversity on its sleeves in races for seniors, disabled and the 6-km Dream Run for citizens.

Causes ranging from environment to education of the girl child ran alongside banners and bandanas. From a two-year-old dressed as Gandhi in support of an educational charity to an 83-year-old villager from Belgaum on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border who ran the half-marathon barefooted, the span was staggering.

Dresses ranged from the sublime one in a gorilla suit and another dressed as Spiderman. There were Andrew Symonds masks and Santa outfits too.

Bollywood sprinkled glitter, with John Abraham and Bipasha Basu starting the Dream Run. Industrialist Anil Ambani turned in an impressive performance to cap a good week for himself and Reliance Power. Alongside the companies, charities and celebrities ran a police team, with hundreds of officers swapping their dandas for trainers.

“It was bigger and better than ever before, aided by some sensational performances from the Indian runners,” said race director Hugh Jones.