Mumbai, India – (January 17, 2010) – Running on a new course and in relatively hot conditions, the defending champions and top gunners went unnoticed as newer faces, Kenyan Denis Ndiso and Bizunesh Urgesa of Ethiopia, took over the prime spots in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon here on Sunday.

Urgesa leads Ethiopian sweep – women’s race

While Kenyans were largely dominating the men’s scene, Ethiopian women ruled the roads of Mumbai for the third year in succession.

Three-time victor Mulu Seboka and defending champion Haile Kebebush led a group of a dozen Ethiopians from the start. The women provided better hopes in terms of performance than the men as there were a host of athletes with better timings entered this year.

But heat and humidity slowed them a bit as they started behind the men.  Seboka had some high hopes at the beginning as she had experience on the course and Kebebush was right on her shoulders to challenge and achieve a good result. 

Quite interestingly the leading group includes two-time global medallist Bizunesh Mohammed Urgesa as well.  Urgesa, the World junior silver medallist in the 3000m in 2008 and a World youth bronze medalist over 1500m five years ago, held off the challenge from her senior compatriots as she fought to remain in the lead group throughout the race. 

Firehiwot Dado Tufa, last year’s Rome Marathon champion along with Azalech Masresha, the ninth place finisher in Paris last year, were threatening to charge the trio as they approached halfway. 

The five made a formidable group but Seboka and Tufa tired as the heat began to take its toll on their return journey. Meanwhile, Urgesa and Kebebush were running shoulder to shoulder in the final stages. The guessing game ended sooner as Urgesa, still only 20, broke the tape two seconds ahead of Kebebush to take the victory.

Running only in her second marathon, Urgesa was already a champion at the Eurasia Istanbul marathon last year. Here she improved her personal best to 2:31:09. 

“It was my first visit to India, the competition was good and I loved running in your country,” Urgesa said. “Thank you Mumbai!”

Admitting her junior teammate a better runner, Kebebush was pleased with her 2:31:11 performance for second. And to everyone’s surprise the third place-finisher Masresha (2:32:12) said the weather was “cold” compared to what they had back at home!

Both the men’s and women’s winners took home USD 35,000 for their triumphs. There was also a Half Marathon, a Veterans’ race and a 6 Km ‘Dream Run’. In the latter, 20,541 participants competed, including many celebrities of the Indian metropolis. 

Maria Polyzou, the Greek national record holder in women’s Marathon who escorted the marathon flame to Mumbai, joined the marathon and ran some distance to cheer the runners and the people who stood alongside. 

Every year the Mumbai event supports various charitable organizations through pledges. This year the race is expected to bring about INR 77 million (USD 1.7 million) for various causes.

 Men’s Race – Ndiso beats the heat

David Tarus, last year’s runner-up and billed as a top contender to win this time around following the absence of defending champion Kenneth Mungara, led the runners briefly but ran into problems maintaining the pace as the group passed Atria Mall and approached the southern municipality of Worli. He fell behind, as did pacer Simon Munyutu, a French citizen with African origin, as the runners took a turn in that point. 

Another pace-setter, Simon Kasimli of Kenya, did the front running and was leading compatriot Ndiso, Ethiopians Gebo Burka and Haile Demissie at the half-way mark.  Having finished his responsibilities, Kasimli allowed the trio to take over after reaching the city’s western suburb of Bandra. 

There was a second group which included Kenyans Samson Limareng, Matthew Kibowen and Jonathan Kibet along with Ethiopians Siraj Amda Bene and Fekadu Kedir running behind the leaders, preparing to take over.

At 30 Km, Limareng and Bene moved ahead and joined the leaders. As the runners approached the newly opened Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, only Ndiso and Burka were in the fray for the top spot as they left the others at a distance. Once at the Sea Link, Ndiso made the kick and ran solo towards the finish as Burka dropped out. 

Ndiso went on to achieve his maiden win in the marathon with a career best 2:12:34 as Bene came from behind to take second in 2:13:58 to foil a Kenyan sweep.  Limareng and Kibet finished behind the Ethiopian for third and fourth places respectively.

“I am happy to be in India.  The course is fantastic,” Ndiso said.  “There was a slight sea breeze while I was running on the Sea Link. I could have achieved a better time had there been a cool weather.” Ndiso added that the last five kilometres wer very hot and he had to tackle the situation alone as the second runner was far behind.

Leading Results –

MEN:
 1. Denis Ndiso, KEN           2:12:34 PB
 2. Siraj Amda Bene, ETH       2:13:58

 6. Fekadu Kedir, ETH          2:15:27

 8. Gezahagn Girma Beyene, ETH 2:17:32
 9. Simon Tanui, KEN           2:17:41
10. Haile Demissie, ETH        2:19:28

WOMEN:
 1. Bizunesh Mohammed Urgesa, ETH 2:31:09 PB
 2. Haile Kebebush, ETH           2:31:11
 3. Azalech Masresha, ETH         2:32:12 PB
 4. Mulu Seboka, ETH              2:32:46
 5. Firehiwot Dao Tufa, ETH       2:33:38
 6. Tirework Lemma, ETH           2:36:52
 7. Martha Markos, ETH            2:38:18
 8. Merima Hasan, ETH             2:42:40
 9. Adil Saeda Kedir, ETH         2:43:20 PB
10. Ayela Lemma, ETH              2:50:32
11. Nina Podnebesnova, RUS        2:53:47
12. Worknesh Mola, ETH            2:54:16

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