Mumbai Marathon: Ethiopia’s Hayle Lemi, Anchalem Haymanot set course marks

Published on Jan 15, 2023 10:56 PM IST

Thonakal Gopi finished first among Indian men, an 10th overall, in his first big race for three years following knee surgery.

Hayle Lemi(Deepak Salvi)
Hayle Lemi(Deepak Salvi)
ByRutvick Mehta

At the first 10km split of the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon on Sunday, the gap between the eventual men’s and women’s elite champions was only just over three minutes. At the finish, it had widened to more than 16 minutes.

The contrast was evident: the men had a strong finish to the measured beginning while the women’s aggressive start tailed off towards the end.

The outcome, though, was similar: new course records.

The honour, and a bonus of $15,000 to go with the winner’s cheque of $45,000, went to Ethiopians. Hayle Lemi, the 2016 Boston Marathon winner, won at 02:07:32, bettering defending champion and compatriot Derara Hurisa’s record of 2:08:09 set in 2020.

The women’s mark of 2:24:33 goes back to 2013 but in her first full marathon, Anchalem Haymanot broke it by clocking 02:24:15 for victory. Both the champions ran through the streets of Mumbai for the first time.

Aided by cooler than usual temperatures in the city on Sunday morning, the country’s premier marathon with a quality field witnessed faster timings. In a Mumbai Marathon first, all three women in the Ethiopian sweep—Rahma Tusa was second at 02:24:22 and Letebrhan Haylay third at 02:24:52—went under 02:25.

Among the men, Kenya's Philemon Rono (02:08:44) and Ethiopia's Hailu Zewdu (02:10:23) finished behind Lemi.

“I was told the Mumbai weather would be hot and it will be tough,” the 28-year-old Lemi, speaking through a translator, said after the race. “In my mind I thought it will be very challenging, but the course and conditions were actually nice.

“I am very happy to beat the course record. If I had pushed more in the beginning, I could have done a better time,” said Lemi, whose personal best of 2:04:33 came in Dubai in 2016.

The early push was in the women’s race instead. The leading pack breezed through 5km in about 15 minutes. The bunch hit the halfway point at a little under 68 minutes (the men's leading group got there in around 64 minutes). “We were telling the pacesetter to push a little bit, increase the pace," Haymanot said. The pacesetter ran with her till the end.

Until around 28km, Lemi and Haymanot had Zewdu and Tusa respectively for company before the more demanding uphill segment, with the sun rising and pushing the temperature, testing the legs. The winners pulled away even as the challengers—three of the other four podium finishers said they started to experience cramp around then—were pulled back.

While Lemi began celebrating on the home stretch with arms aloft Haymanot, run close by Tusa to the finish line, slumped to the ground.

Encouraged by her coach to give marathon a shot, the 21-year-old had only competed in 10,000m, 10km, 25km and the half-marathon coming into Mumbai.

“I was nervous before the start because I didn’t have the experience of running a marathon,” Haymanot said. “I was also afraid about the weather. But I’m really happy with the way I won it and also for the course record. I did not expect it as a lot of athletes were better than me.”

Also left somewhat surprised with the result was Lemi, who has won eight of his 16 marathons.

“All my life I’ve focused on training; that is the reason for my consistent success,” he said. “Today, I did not think my body will be up for a timing like this, so I’m a little bit surprised.”

Gopi shines among Indians

Among the Indians, Thonakal Gopi had a creditable outing in his first major competition in three years, finishing as the best Indian and 10th overall clocking 02:16:41.

The 2017 Asian Championships silver medallist was unsure of his competitive readiness on the back of a long injury layoff after knee surgery in 2020. After this show, Gopi is confident of making this year's Asian Games qualification cut (2:15:00). He plans to compete in the Seoul Marathon in March next.

“After going three years without competing, this has given me the boost for the season, where my aim is the Asian Games. I’m confident now of getting there,” said Gopi, who finished ahead of Man Singh (2:16:58) and Kalidas Hirave (2:19:54).

Srinu Bugatha, last edition’s quickest Indian, finished a disappointing 02:23:05.

The Indian women also had much slower times, with Bhopal-based Chavi Yadav, in her first competitive marathon, clocking 02:50:35 as the fastest.

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