Ethiopians Legese, Kuma sweep TSK 25Ks fifth edition

Sable, Surya defend titles in Indian elites 

Loughanis spellbound by Kolkata, Ganguly impressed with turnout

International Overall Elite Men Winner Birhanu Legese at the Finish Line

In what emerged as a double for Ethiopia, Birhanu Legese and Dibaba Kuma braced glory in the Elite 25K men’s and women’s categories respectively, even as Avinash Sable and L Surya kept the Indian flag fluttering in the fifth edition of Tata Steel Kolkata 25K. The race also witnessed 14,734 people run on a nippy winter morning as TSK 25K celebrated Vijay Diwas today.

It was a riot of sight, sound and colours at the TSK 25K with people across the board came to the starting line to make the celebration of Vijay Diwas truly meaningful. In each step there was pride, in each leap a faith of beaching a distance and every spring a promise of a healthy tomorrow.

And in their mix the elite athletes were playing an intriguing move on the chess board spread across the iconic locales of the city, as they ran a game of check and balance. Legese, Bayelign, Kiptanui and Kipruto kept a tight pack till the last hair pin at 20 Km mark.

Without pacemakers, a large group that included several of the Indian elite runners went through 5km in a relatively sedate 15:37 with Uganda’s Robert Chemonges and Tanzania’s Augustino Sulle doing most of the work at the front in the early stages of the race. The pace increased slightly over the next five kms but a group of nine were still together as 10Km was reached in 30:35; and then slowed again as 15km was passed 45:57, allowing the leading group to increase to 11.

The next five kms saw just three men shaken off with the 20km split reading 1:01:04. However, if the winning time was now never going to match Kenenisa Bekele’s course record of 1:13:48 from 12 months ago, it did ensure a thrilling finish and that’s what the thousands lining the route of the world’s only IAAF Label Road Race over 25km were able to witness.

With two km remaining, the two-time Airtel Delhi Half Marathon winner Legese put in a surge which splintered the leading group. His teenage compatriot Bayelign Yegsaw was the only man to follow closely as the rest struggled to stay with the leading pair.

One-by-one the remaining runners dropped away before Legese found another gear over the final 400 metres to fend off Yegsaw, who doesn’t turn 19 until next February and will possibly start as the favourite for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships U20 title next March.

Legese finished first with a timing of 1:15:48, while fellow countrymen Bayelign Yegsaw finished with a timing of 1:15:49. In the third position was Kenyian Amos Kipruto clocking 1:15:52.    

Of course the run fell way short of the world’s best set by Dennis Kimetto (1:11:18) in 2012 and course record set here last year by Keninisa Bekele of 1:13:48.

Legese Birhanu said: “The race was very good. I am very happy as the weather was good and place to run was also good. I decided to change gears in the last one kilometer, in the last 500 mts I increased my pace and sealed the affair.”

Second spot winner Amos said: “Thank you for welcoming me in Tata Steel Kolkata 25K and I am so happy. The weather was good, the race was good. I had a feeling I will have a podium finish. I have used myself well to be on top three. This race success is giving me moral for Tokyo Marathon 2019. This race was my training before going to Tokyo.”

The women’s race was pretty even Stevens till the last lap with the Indian elites running toe to toe with their International competitors. In fact at the 10K mark Surya led the pack while in the 15K mark she was just behind the eventual winner Kuma. However, in the last five kilometers the African runners showed their pedigree as distance runners switching gears and taking the pole position with relative ease. 

International Overall Elite Women Winner Dibaba Kuma at the Finish Line

In the elite women it was a shock surprise with defending champion Degitu Azimeraw coming a distant fourth. The race was won by Ethiopean Dibaba Kuma with a timing of 1:27:34, followed by her country mate Ftaw Zeray 1:27:38 and Failuna Matanga of Tanzania clocking 1:27:45.  Actually Degitu clocked a timing of 1:26:01 last year to set a course record, but was 1:50 min slower this time round.

Dibaba said: “I am very happy with this win. After running a marathon in October I took rest for one week and then I practiced, came here and won this race.”

The Elite International athletes go home richer by USD 7,500 each, while the elite Indian winners pocket a purse of Rs 2,75,000 each. 

In the Indian segment the top three spots were taken by Avinash Sable (1:17:11), steeplechaser Srinu Bugatha (1;17:18) and Abhishek Pal (1:18:26), with Sable easily defending his title without breaking much sweat. In the women’s segment L Suryia defended her title with a timing of 1:28:29, followed by Sudha Singh 1:29:11 and Parul Chaudhury 1:30:18. The three Indian women also hogged the top 10 positions.

Sable later said: “I am feeling very happy. I won the race last year and was determined to do good this year also. This year I practiced well and the organisation was very good. The international runners are very good. Their technique, the way they change their pace is very good. If we get more chance like this to run with international runners, our standard will go up.”

“I practiced well and ran the first 19 km with the international runners. They were running slow and my pace was fast. I decided not to follow them. I wanted to clock time and come overall third,” Surya said after defending her title.

Event Brand Ambassador Sourav Ganguly said; “I am associated with TSK 25K for four years. I absolutely  loved to see around 15000 people run. It has grown every year and now in its international avatar it's one of the best run at this distance. I am a big advocate for running. It has been a way of my life. I am really proud to see the city embrace running to this extent."

Talking about his experience, International Brand Ambassador Greg Louganis said: “My experience in Kolkata has been so incredible. There are so much incredible dishes eat, such a milieu of colours sight and sound. I don’t want to miss anything. If I can stay here for few more days that would have been great. The people here are very generous and kind. To be here in the TSK 25K, my focus is to help others. Its wonderful to see whole community coming together and it does not matter race, gender anything.”

TSK 25K only in its second year in international avatar has already become a destination for the distance runners from world over. But the icing on the cake is the way the city has opened up its arms to the race and become a brand ambassador for running in the East.

Following are the final results:

Overall Athlete Men

Birhanu Legese (ETH) 1:15:48; Bayelign Yegsaw (ETH) 1:15:49; Amos Kipruto (KEN) 1:15:52; Eric Kiptanui (KEN) 1:15:52; Robert Chemonges (UGANDA) 1:16:01.

Overall Athlete Women

Dibaba Kuma (ETH) 1:27:34; Ftaw Zeray (ETH) 1:27:38; Failuna Matanga (TAN) 1:27:45; Degitu Azimeraw (ETH) 1:27:51; Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 1:27:57.

Overall Indian Athlete Men

Avinash Sable (IND) 1:17:11; Srinu Bugatha (IND) 1:17:18; Abhishek Pal (IND) 1:18:26; Durga Bahadur (IND) 1:18:28; Shankar Man Thapa (IND) 1:19:34.

Overall Indian Athlete Women

  1. Suriya L (IND) 1:28:29; Sudha Singh (IND) 1:29:11; Parul Chaudhary (IND) 1:30:18; Manju Yadav (IND) 1:39:26; Kiran Sahdev (IND) 1:39:29.

Run in Costume

Group Winners:

Little Big Help India Trust (Safe Drive Save Life); Srimad Rajchandra Mission (Transforming the world through Love & Care).

Individual Winners:

Zeenat Khatoon (Beti Bachao); Moumita Mali (Save Earth).

Vijay Diwas Trophy

Indian Army Team 1 (Mohit Rathore, Mukesh Bandhari, Deepak Singh Rawat) 4:06:35; Indian Army Team 3 (Jagdish Mahar, Sandeep Singh Chouhan, Vikash Kumar) 4:15:37; Indian Army Team 2 (K H Roshan Singh, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Neeraj Singh Kunwar) 4:16:53.

Police Cup

Team 1(Manas Das, Laxman Chandra Roy, Bachhu Durlav) 1:54:49; Team 12 (Joydev Dey; Panchanan Datta; Panchananda Ghosh) 1:56:14); Team 11 (Wazed Ali, Sandip Dutta, Achong Abel Rongong Lepcha) 2:02:00.

Open 10k-Age Categories Winners:

Male:

15 to 24 years: Santosh Yadav (0:32:19), Manish Yadav (0:33:11), Vijay Prakash (0:33:38)

25 to 34 years: Murali M (0:34:04), Gaurav Singh (0:36:06), Naresh Kumar (0:36:14)

35 to 44 years: Uday Das (0:39:07), Dipak Sinha (0:43:46), Sagar Mukhia (0:44:45)

45 to 54 years: Samrat Gupta (0:40:51), Surajit Biswas (0:41:23), Sukram Laguri (0:44:45)

55 to 64 years: Anil Mahata (0:43:19), Aswini Kumar Panja (0:47:15), Manikumar Sarkar (0:48:12)

65 years and above: Bir Bahadur Limbu (0:52:44), Arun Singh (0:56:47), Dulal Ahiri (0:57:19)

Female:

15 to 24 years: Puja Mandal (0:37:15), Tashi Ladol (0:40:45), Devika Srikanth (0:43:45)

25 to 34 years: Rakhi Majumdar (0:54:05), Lalita Kumari (0:54:37), Sujata Palit (0:57:32)

35 to 44 years female: Sonal Paul (0:51:37), Vani Acharya (0:53:38), Debdatta Chowdhury (0:55:12)

45 to 54 years: Vaishali Kasture (0:46:41), Sunmbul Rahman (0:49: 48), Shruti Kothari Vadera (1:00:47)

55 to 64 years: Kajal Rai (1:06:33), Rebecca Burkholder (1:10:54), Vandana Roy (1:19:46)

65 years and above: Jonaki Mitra (1:33:20)