It was a photo finish towards the end as India’s Gopi Thonakal beat compatriot Nitendra Singh Rawat to win the Mumbai Marathon India men’s category on Sunday. Gopi and Rawat were running alongside each other throughout the 42km course but towards the end, with the finish line 200 metres away, Gopi broke away and sprinted to the finish to win gold by 0.3 seconds.

Rawat had to be content with silver and Srinu Bugatha of Andhra Pradesh winning bronze. Bugatha clocked 2:23:56.

In the India women’s, Olympian Sudha Singh came in first with a time of 2:48:32 followed by Jyoti Gawte, who finished with a time of 2:50:47. Parul Chowdhary came third with a time of 2:53:26.

A developing rivalry

However, Gopi and Rawat, who used to train together till the latter was dropped by the Athletics Federation of India due to lack of fitness, gave it their all towards the end. “The last part of the race depends on one’s explosive power and the person who has more of it wins the race. That was the reason. Gopi also tried and I also the tired,” said Rawat.

“Actually, I was aiming for the course record and till 30km I was doing well. But the last 12kms saw the pacer also running slow, which caused a disruption in my plans. After 32kms we were on our own,” said Gopi. “According to the climate, the timing is okay. It was quite hot towards the end,” he added.

When Rawat was quizzed about whether this performance will urge the national selectors to reconsider his selection, Rawat said, ““You should ask this question to the selection committee of the national camp. They will give a better answer. My job is to run, so I am running.”

The duo had a target of 2:13 in the mind, but they were nowhere close to it. The weather came into play as temperatures soared from 23 degrees to 31.

Weather plays a role 

“It was first marathon after injury. I had a lot going on my mind. I was happy with my time. We were gunning for the 2:13 time, but once our pacers left, we became slow. Now I am aiming for the Delhi Marathon. If I get a good timing there then I can qualify for the Commonwealth and Asian Games,” said Rawat, where he will compete with Gopi once again.

The weather was pleasant when the race started at 7:10am, however, temperatures soared once the sun came out. Rawat suggested that the race time should be pushed back by an hour, better timings were possible for the runners. “If you start at 7 the climate starts to get warm. If you start an hour earlier, it is good. The first hour we ran today had a good timing. The second hour saw us becoming slow. It is also possible to make a world record if we start an hour earlier,” said Rawat. Gopi also agreed with the suggestion.

Ethiopians rule Mumbai

Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa and Amane Gobena won gold in the men’s and women’s races in the full marathon. Twenty-two-year-old Deksisa lead a 1-2 finish for Ethiopia ahead of 29-year-old compatriot Shumet Akalnaw.

Deksisa clocked 2:09:34 and was aiming to break the course record of 2:08:35. Shumet crossed the finish line in 2:10:00 with last year’s silver medalist Kenya Joshua Kipkorir coming third with a time of 2:10:30.

In the women’s race, Gobena came in with a time of 2:25:49 followed by defending champion Bornes Kitur of Kenya who clocked 2:28:48. In third place was Ethiopia’s Shumo Genemo, who clocked 2:29:41. The overall winners of both full marathons earned $42,000 each.