Kenyans run to glory, mesmerise Pune

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A maize farmer from Kenya's long-distance running nursery, Eldoret, won the 27th edition of the Pune International Marathon on Sunday. Thirty-two-year-old Luka Kipkemoi Chelimo coasted to the finishing line at Nehru Stadium in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 3 seconds.

Kirui Simon Kiprugut of Kenya and Danel Aschenik Derese of Ethiopia came second and third respectively.

In the women's half marathon, Kenyans made a clean sweep of the top three positions. Kamulu Pauline Kaveke took the top honour, reaching the finish in 1 hour, 8 minutes and 37 seconds. Mutune Agnes Katunge finished second and Muysyoka Hellen Nzembi third.

Services' athlete Gajilal Patle who finished 17th in the men's full marathon was the best Indian runner clocking 2 hours, 29 minutes and 33 seconds. Shivdan Singh Barala was the second best Indian athlete, finishing 19th. In the women's half marathon, Asian Games silver medallist Kavita Raut finished ninth, being the best-placed Indian athlete, in 1 hour 17 minutes and 38 seconds.

This was Luka Kipkemoi Chelimo's first marathon win and the diminutive Kenyan said he knew he had a good chance once he crossed the 20-km mark. "My rhythm was good, I was breathing very well and the pace was perfect. Once I crossed the 25-km mark without trouble, I felt like the win was within my grasp," he said.

Kipkemoi Chelimo's previous best was at the Beijing Marathon in 2010 where he finished second. He said his first experience of running a marathon in India was good and he would definitely return. "The weather was great, it wasn't too cold or too hot. It was perfect weather to run and I think I am definitely going to try and participate in more events in India," he said.

Pauline Kaveke, the 19-year-old winner of the women's half marathon also recorded her first marathon win of her career on Sunday. The petite Kaveke who hails from Machakos in central Kenya said she was glad to post a win early in her career as a professional athlete. "I love running and want to be known as one of Kenya's great athletes. I think it's a great beginning. It was great to win the Pune Marathon. I enjoyed running in the city and completing the race in 68 minutes is a good achievement," said Kaveke. She had participated in the Nagpur Marathon in 2011 and finished sixth.

The men's half marathon was won by Melaku Belachew of Ethiopia in 1 hour, 1 minute and 19 seconds. The men's half marathon saw an all-Ethiopian podium as Wabi Teftiye and Dejenee Deggefa finished second and third. Belachew and Teftiye ran a tight race with only five seconds separating first from second.

In the men's 10-km run, Deepak Kumar of India clinched first position with a timing of 30 minutes, 15.9 seconds followed by P Nagendra Rao and Naveen Hooda. The women's 10-km was won by rising star Lalita Babar in 36 minutes 3.3 seconds followed by Swati Gadhave and Nashik's Monika Athre.

HIGHLIGHTS

Battle of East Africa

Kenyan athletes won the race for the maximum number of podium finishes, though by a very slender margin. Kenyan athletes managed five podium finishes as compared to their geographical neighbours Ethiopia, which got on to the podium four times. Kenyan athlete Luka Kipemoi Chelimo won the men's full marathon while compatriot Kirui Simon Kiprigut came second. Kenyan athletes swept the women's half marathon taking all three podium places.

Ploughing to victory

Chelimo, the men's full marathon winner, is a family man with two children. Chelimo, however, wanted to soak in the glory of his win without sharing it with his family immediately. "This is my first marathon win and I am going to enjoy it on my own. My prize money is going to go to my children and my parents but before that I want some time to myself," he said. The 32-year-old, a fanatical fan of current Olympic champion and world record holder in 800m David Rudisha, says his biggest dream is winning an Olympic medal for Kenya like his idol, almost 10 years his junior. Chelimo who cultivates maize on his field in Eldoret said farming doesn't really give him a lot of time for training. "I can train for may be a couple of hours everyday but not more. Looking after maize consumes quite some time," he said.

19-year-old wins half marathon

Women's half marathon winner Pauline Kaveke, all of 19, started running at a rather young age. Kaveke first started running at the age of six, more out of compulsion than choice. "I was born in a village outside Machakos and school was nearly 4 kms away. I ran to school once and it gradually became a habit," said Kaveke. Escorted by Kenyan team manager, Kaveke was a hit with the crowd as many youngsters queued up to click a picture with the champion.

Havildar with Signals Regiment finishes 17th

Maharashtra's remote tribal district of Gondia had a surprise representative in the 27th edition of the Marathon. Gajilal Patle, a havildar with the Signals Regiment in Jabalpur, finished as the highest placed Indian athlete in the marathon. Patle finished 17th, a credible achievement for a race dominated since inception by East African runners. Patle who is trained by veteran marathon runner K C Ramu said a high altitude training stint helped him improve his running. "I trained in Ooty with Ramu sir and it was a great experience. A lot of athletes who represented India were at the same camp and I learnt a lot from them. Spending time there has also brought about a change in my attitude. I am more focused and today was a good example," he said.

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