Mumbai Marathon: Elite marathoners set for biggest challenge

Will it be a he or a she? It's a toss-up -- we may end up with either a male or female from the elite group reaching the finish line in the 17th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon on Sunday.

While defending champion Cosmas Lagat of Kenya returns after a year-long layover, his last outing being the 2019 event because of injury, his arch-rival Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia, who had clocked in at 2:04.23, could provide the feel-good factor.

On the other hand, in the women's section, defending champion Worknesh Alemu of Ethiopia has an advantage, as she is up against Amane Beriso, who has the best time, 2:20.48, but will be coming to this elite race after more than 15 months, which should be a psychological advantage for Alemu.

Talking about the race in the country's richest marathon, the athletes appeared confident in their own manner, but the body language of Lagat, who timed 2:08.14 last year, signaled he would find it hard to defend his title. However, he said he felt confident and the 12-month long break has helped him regain form after his calf muscle injury.

“I know the course and a small change here or there will not make much of a difference,” said Cosmas.

Also optimistic is Abshero, who at least looks better on paper with his timing.

“He is the defending champion, but I will also give it my best and it all depends on the day of the race,” he said.

In the women’s elite section, Ethiopians Worknesh Alemu and Amane Beriso are the top two contenders. While the defending champion Worknesh Alemu has got good preparation time for this race, and she takes her own cool time to answer any questions with an interpreter beside her. And it is evident she leaves any loopholes in the answers, as she did while finishing the race last edition kicking off the bunch with over 15 kms to go.

“Yes, I want to make it two-in-a-row and I have been working for a while. And I am positive of the outcome,” said Worknesh Alemu while talking to media on Friday.

She (Amane) is a challenge I will face and she is a good too, it will all depend on the race day,” said the champion.

On the other hand, Amane said that she will give all her opponents run for their money. “It has been quite some time I am making my comeback, but I am prepared,” she said. With the weather conditions predicted to be perfect for the marathon day, expect old records to tumble in a heap.