In a sport that tests endurance, character and spirit and is dominated by Kenyans, no one expected an unknown Ugandan to crunch a gruelling 42.195km of the Mumbai Marathon into the fastest ever 2.09.56 hours.
Twenty-six-year-old Jackson Kiprop grabbed the gold, clocking the fastest ever in the history of the Mumbai Marathon in his first attempt at the full race. Kiprop entered the race as a pacemaker to gain experience for future full marathons. Rarely have pacemakers gone on to win the race in any edition across the world.
On Sunday, Kiprop made an exception to this phenomenon to clip 24 seconds of the course record in his first full marathon.
Kiprop was inspired by his training partner Stephen Kiprotich’s London Games gold medal-winning performance, Uganda’s first marathon yellow metal in Olympics. Both Kiprotich and Kiprop train in high altitude conditions of Kaptagat, Kenya.
“I have been training for three months with Kiprotich,” Kiprop said after winning the race.
He used to train alone until he met his coach Richard Mettow. The training included running six days a week, twice a day with a 5 km run in the morning. In the evening he would pack in a 50-minute run. Each day would have a different kind of a training regimen to forge his muscles for endurance. He is now planning to take a shot at the World Championship to be held in August. Interestingly, when he runs, he keeps his right thumb up because folding it hinders his ergonomics.
Kiprop broke away from the rest, including defending champion Laban Moiben of Kenya, at the turn on Babulnath Road-Marine Drive on the return leg with about 5km to go for the finish line.
But in the long stretch at the Queen’s Necklace, Moiben could not keep pace with Kiprop and Cheshari. He ignored the rare occasion when Cheshari went past. The tired legs of the Ethiopian held him back as Kiprop outpaced the rest to breast the tape in 2:09:32 hours. Cheshari followed next 11 seconds behind.
Kiprop admitted that he did not think of finishing the race as there was no water when he required.
“At 35km, I saw myself out of the race. I wanted water but there was none. I continued and once I had water, I was ok and carried on,” the winner of $40,000 said. The prize will help him “construct a decent house for myself and my family”.
He has a large family to support and move into the city from the suburbs back home.