The 2019 edition of the Mumbai Marathon saw Kenyan Cosmas Lagat take the elite field by storm as he stamped his authority on the race with a dominant run that saw him win the gold medal by almost a minute.
Lagat was in his element a year ago when he broke away from the pack with over 10 kilometres to go and raced to the finish line in two hours, nine minutes and 15 seconds, a minute over the course record (2:08:35).
But on Sunday, the Kenyan is eyeing to better the mark set by his compatriot Gideon Kipketer in 2016. Speaking at the pre-race press meet in Mumbai, Lagat indicated that he would surely be eyeing the record, as well as the bonus of US $15,000 that comes with it.
“Running here last year and doing so well has given me confidence that I can win again, and I am thinking about the course record. I have learnt how to run this race better,” he said.
However, defending his title on the streets of Mumbai will be anything but easy for the 29-year-old, especially given that he will be returning to competitive racing after a year’s time. The Kenyan, who was last seen in action at the 2019 Mumbai Marathon, was sidelined due to a calf injury that hampered his progress last season.
The injury not only kept Lagat away from racing last season, but he was also forced to skip his training routine to let his leg heal. “I had an injury to my left calf and Achilles tendon. I think it happened during one of the training sessions. That meant I couldn’t race and that I had to avoid training too,” he stated, pointing to the region on his leg that was affected.
“But it’s better now. I stayed in Kenya for my rehab as well. I think all is well,” said Lagat, who trains with his fellow countryman Lawrence Cherono who won both the Boston and the Chicago marathons last season.
The Mumbai challenge
Training alongside a runner of Cherono’s calibre and following a similar programme has rubbed off on Lagat, who calls him his motivator.
And on Sunday, the Kenyan will be hoping to put his best foot forward when he lines up alongside a quality field that will feature the likes of Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia, the runner-up at last year’s Hamburg Marathon.
Abshero, who first burst into the limelight with his title-winning run at the 2012 Dubai Marathon, is hitting the Indian roads for the first time ever. And with someone like Lagat in the field, it could be a tricky proposition to deal with. But the Ethiopian sounded confident of his chances. “He (Lagat) is the defending champion, but I will also give it my best and it all depends on the day of the race. I am here to win the race,” he said.
Amane Beriso’s nagging troubles
Meanwhile, in the women’s half, the situation is no different. While defending champion, Ethiopia’s Worknesh Alemu, will be eyeing a back-to-back title, trying to make life difficult for her will be compatriot Amane Beriso, who is returning to road running after a year-long gap.
The 28-year-old, who last competed at the Toronto Marathon in 2018, was sidelined due to an injury to her calf. But back in the mix, Beriso was happy to see the lighter side of her injury. “It’s this entire region,” she said pointing at her legs before breaking into a hearty laugh
“It started with calf trouble, then when I tried working on it, some other part of my leg would get hurt,” she said, explaining her past 15 months with a jovial smile.
However, in fine shape after addressing her niggles over the past months, the Ethiopian will be keen to give a good account of herself on Sunday. And if she can run close to her personal best (2:20:48) the title might not be that far.