January 18, 2015
A host of Ethiopian marathon runners led by Tesfaye Abera and Dinknesh Mekash, rekindled memories of the legendary Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila who, running barefoot, captured the imagination of the world by winning the 1960 Rome Olympics and 1964 Tokyo Olympics marathon gold. “I want the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism,” is a famous statement from one of history’s greatest athletes.
On Sunday in the 12th edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015, the remarkable long distance runners from a country located on the horn of Africa, scored terrific victories at the expense of their Kenyan and other counterparts.
The 22-year-old 6.4 ft slenderly built Abera outwitted Kenyans – Luke Kibet, the marathon winner of the IAAF World Championship 2007 at Osaka, Michael Mutai, Peter Kosgie and last year’s winner Evans Roto – in his debut marathon to win the top prize money of $ 41,000.
Looking back a number of times in the last 10 km of the 42.195 km race, particularly on the Marine Drvie stretch, cost him a bonus of $ 15,000 announced for lowering the course record. Virtually running alone after the descend section of the Peddar Road bridge, Abera clocked 2.09.46 secs ahead of his countryman Dereje Debele (2.10.31) and Kibet (2.10.57). Mutai, who was a pace setter, proceeded to complete the race, finish fourth to receive a prize money of $ 10,000.
Abera has run a numbers of 10 km, 15km and half marathon in the last three years, but his eventual goal was to realise the dream of running a marathon and winning it too. He gave it a first shot in Mumbai and won it. “As an Ethiopian I wanted to run marathon races. The weather was okay. I was keen on breaking the course record. I am happy I won,” said Abera fielding question with a help of an Ethiopian interpreter who has been a management student in the city for the last three years.
The defending champion in the women’s, Dinknesh, made it a sweet double for her country by making the race all her own from the 21 km mark. The 29-year-old who had made it habit of running marathon races, one each in China and Paris and Mumbai, won $ 41,000. “After the 21 km mark, I felt acute pain on my back and around the ankle. That’s why the slow timing,” she said.
The Elite marathon runners in the men and women’s section won together $ 2,26,000. Jos Hermens, familiar with Ethiopian athletes and who was closely associated with the technical aspect of the race said, “It was getting warmer as the race progressed. The half-way split was 1 hr.4 mts and by all reckoning the marathon was a heading toward a course record (2.09.32 secs set by Kenyan Jackson Kiprop in 2013), but I thought there was no one to push Abera and perhaps he was tired too.”
The results: Elite (Men) 1. Tesfaye Abera (Ethiopia) 2.09.46; 2. Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) 2.10.31; 3. Luke Kibet (Kenya) 2.10.57; Elite (women) Dinknesh Mekash (Ethiopia) 1. 2.30.00; 2. Kumeshi Sichala (Ethiopia) 2.30.56; 3. Marta Megra (Ethiopia) 2.31.45.