Bengaluru, May 27: Geoffrey Kamworor fulfilled all expectations and consolidated his reputation as arguably the best road racer in the world below the marathon distance by winning his third title at the TCS World 10K in Bengaluru on Sunday (May 27).
The Kenyan, the winner of the last two world half marathon titles and first man across the line in Bengaluru in 2012 and 2014, couldn't challenge his course record of 27:44 on a hot and humid morning but crossed the line in 28:18 after impressively imposing his authority on the race just after the halfway point.
In sharp contrast to men's race, the Elite International women's contest was a close-fought three-way affair which only got decided in the final 500m as the first three runners home went under the former course record of 31:46 by Kenya's Lucy Kabuu in 2014. The Kenya trio of Pauline Kamulu, Caroline Kipkirui and Agnes Tirop were accompanied by Ethiopia's Netsanet Gudeta and Senbere Teferi.
Amongst the Elite Indian Women, Sanjivani Jadhav, set the course ablaze on Sunday in Bengaluru, completing her race at 33:38, officially setting a new course record post a nine year interlude. Sanjivani, crossing the finish line at 33:38, bettered her previous time on the same course by 2:35 minutes, (her finish time at the TCS World 10K 2016 was 36:13 when she was runner-up) and also ended ranked 10 amongst the overall elite women (international and Indian) in competition at this edition.
The last course record amongst the Indian elite women was set by Kavita Raut in the year 2009 with a time of 34:32, a record that Sanjivani was delighted at breaking sharing, "It feels great to create a new course record, and I know that Kavita Di (Kavita Raut) would be glad that it was me who broke this record as we are in the same academy and she has been a senior that I have looked upto for many years."
Sanjivani's record came through an ambitious race strategy where while she and fellow competitors Monika Athare, Swati Gadave set the pace for the Indian women in the start, she along with Swati broke out around the 3km mark, deciding to pace themselves against the international elite athletes ahead of them. With the fear of Swati possibly catching up with her, Sanjivani completed with an impressive last Kilometre, sharing, "I was obviously scared about Swati beating me because she's a very experienced runner and she's strong. But in the last 1km, I decided to just look forward and run as fast as I could."
Swati who came into this race as a two time champion, was confident of a triple title but was out-classed by Sanjivani the seventh Kilometre onwards. Disappointed in her performance, she shared, "Being a two-time champion at this event, I knew I would come in and push harder. I was at the same pace with Sanjivani till about 7kms and then she surged ahead. Towards the end, I began to slow down and this was because I felt a catch in my stomach and that hurt all my hopes of completing my triple attempt at being champion."
Kiranjeet Kaur completed the Indian Women's elite podium coming in at third 17 seconds behind Swati at 35:25.
While the women created a new course record, the men's race was as spectacular with the top two male Indian athletes, Suresh Kumar and Man Singh crossing the finish line at identical times of 30:12. The timings put both the indian just slightly off the top 10 Overall Male Finishers in the race, with Belgium's Bashir Abdi sitting at the overall tenth spot at 30:01.
Man Singh and Suresh Kumar both acknowledged in the post-race press conference that they knew each other were their toughest competitors. Breaking down his race, Man Singh shared, "I knew that Suresh would be my strongest competitor. He's always fit and he's always at his best, and so my main focus was to try and keep pace with him and the Kenyan runners, so that I could beat him. I was right behind him for most of the race and then in the last 2kms, we were neck-to-neck. Watching him push so much, motivated me even more. The finish was so close and I feel like if I had just trained more, I could have won, but I'm still very happy with my result. "
Kumar and Singh were joined on the Podium by Shankar Man Thapa, who till the last 500 metres presented a three-way tie but eventually pulled back towards the end, unable to cope with his prior injury that had him running the course bandaged. "Also, I had an injury, as you all saw, I ran with a bandage and that slowed me down. For the first 7 kms, I ran with Suresh and Man Singh, and then in the middle at around 8 or 9kms I overtook them, but the last 500 metres were very hard and I couldn't keep up with them." said the Army Sports Institute member.
In the International Male Elite Race that concluded the proceedings for the day, Kamworor led during the early stages of the race almost from the gun as the rest of the leading pack ran in single or double file behind him through the first 5km, with only his compatriot and defending champion Alex Korio helping with the pace.
He kept up his relentless pace and deservedly took the plaudits in front of a packed and raucous audience in the Sree Kanteerava Stadium to continue his unbeaten streak which started with his win at the New York City Marathon last November and has continued through his four outings in 2018.
"I think we were all cautious about the weather in the first half of the race. It was very hot, and I think that's what cost me the course record. I came here thinking about the course record and tried the best I could, but I could feel the temperature rising as I was warming up. I was jogging for just three minutes before starting to sweat," reflected a smiling Kamworor. "But make no mistake, I love coming to Indian races, I love the atmosphere and certainly want to come back," he added.
The penultimate kilometre was visibly very quick on the slight downhill slope of as the runners came back around the city's famous Cubbin Park and the course record now looked like a distinct possibility.
In the Elite International women's contest, after 9km was passed in 28:25, Kipkirui started to suffer and was unable to stay with her two rivals. With 500 metres to go it was down to a head-to-head battle between Teferi and Tirop, the latter using her sub-8:30 speed over 3000m on the track to outkick Teferi about 250 metres from the line before winning in 31:19.
"I knew my training had been going well but I didn't come here expecting to win as it was such a strong field. Maybe my chances were 50/50. It helped that the Ethiopians made the pace in the first half of the race and I felt very comfortable following them," said Tirop.
"I had a good race on the track in Doha (over 3000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting there earlier this month) - and I still think of myself as a track runner even though I won the world cross country title in 2015 - so I knew I had my finishing speed was fine, so I was hoping to still be at the front of the race with 400 metres to go and I could then use my speed."
Teferi finished in 31:22 with Kipkurui third in 31:28.
ver 24,000 runners registered for the five different races on Sunday in what has quickly become one of Bengaluru's most high-profile annual sporting events. In addition to the TCS World 10K Bengaluru 2018 for elite runners, there was an Open 10K, the Majja Run (6km) the Senior Citizens' Race and Champions with Disability Race (both 4km).
Overall Elite Men:
Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) 00:28:18; Birhanu Legese (ETH) 00:28:38; Mosinet Geremew (ETH) 00:28:39; Alex Korio (KEN) 00:28:44; Edwin Kiptoo (KEN) 00:28:50; Abraham Cheroben (BHR) 00:28:55; Leul Gebrselassie (ETH) 00:29:07; Moses Kurong (UGA) 00:29:14; Brett Robinson (AUS) 00:29:21; Bashir Abdi (BEL) 00:30:01.
Overall Elite Women:
Agnes Tirop (KEN) 00:31:19; Senbere Teferi (ETH) 00:31:22; Caroline Kipkirui (KEN) 00:31:28; Netsanet Gudeta (ETH) 00:31:53; Pauline Kamulu (KEN) 00:32:16; Zeineba Yimer (ETH) 00:32:47; Stella Chesang (UGA) 00:33:02; Daria Maslova (KGZ) 00:33:22; Salome Nyirarukundo (RWA) 00:33:31; Sanjivani Jadhav (IND) 00:33:38.
Suresh Kumar 00:30:12; Man Singh 00:30:12; Shankar Man Thapa 00:30:41; Srinu Bugatha 00:30:58; Balliappa AB 00:31:10; Karan Singh 00:31:12; Anish Thapa 00:31:17; Virendra Kumar Pal 00:31:18; Tirtha Pun 00:31:20; Vikram Bharat 00:31:27.
Sanjivani Jadhav (Overall 10) 00:33:38; Swati Gadhave 00:35:08; Kiranjeet Kaur 00:35:25; Varsha Namdev 00:35:54; Monika Athare 00:36:03; Priti Lamba 00:36:26; Kiran 00:36:28; Manju Yadav 00:36:40; Saigeeta Naik 00:36:46; Phoolan Yadav 00:37:10.
Men: Men Team 1 (Raja, Kumar Swamy B K, Narendra D) 1:54:48; Men Team 2 (K N Naveen, Hanumanthraju L, Ganesh) 1:59:49; Men Team 3 (Mallikjan Desai, Siddaram Malli, Vittal G 2:18:01.
Women: Women Team 59 (Devamma B, Hemavathi G G, Satyavvajagadale) 2:59:48; Women Team 72 (Savithri Patil, Divyabharathi Rathod, Radhika Asthagi) 3:08:41; Women Team 76 (Sunitha R, Vijayalakshmi M D, Lalitha Chowgale) 3:15:10.