Life may have come a full circle for the winners of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday.
Last year, when Mumbai hosted it first international marathon, Julius Sugut and Mulu Seboka lost some crucial points after being misdirected off the course.
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Mulu wasn't as fortunate. She was among a group of four women athletes who were sent in the wrong direction before finishing in three hours and two minutes, nearly 12 minutes and 13 places behind the winner, Violetta Uryga.
"Last year I was misdirected and wanted to prove a point here [in Mumbai] today," said Mulu, after finishing first this time.
Coming off a good season, which saw her win the marathon in Valencia, Spain, in 2003 and emerge runner-up at Beirut, Lebanon, Mulu was confident of a strong finish.
The Ethiopian youngster, who has been participating in marathons for the past three years, is a star runner in her country, her coach at the National Training Camp informed. She has opted for the marathon instead of road or track races and is already being talked about as an Olympic medal hope in the country.
But the 21-year-old is unfazed by the expectations. On Sunday she hit the tape more than a minute ahead of compatriot Leila Aman. Irina Timofayeva of Russia was third with a timing of 2:36.42 seconds.
Leila said once Mulu took off midway on the return lap it was impossible to catch up with her.
Irina felt that with a cushion of another kilometre she could have finished a place ahead.
Better conditions and a flatter course this year ensured faster timings by the athletes. Nine of the 12 women runners who finished the run were well within last year's winning time of 2: 47.53 seconds.
In the men's section, the first five finishers timed better than last year's winner.
"The race was good because I improved the time from 2:15 last year to 2:13. The temperature was not right for the race last year. The weather was a lot better and so was the route this time," reiterated Sugut after the race.
The 30-year-old led a pack of Kenyans in the race, finishing with a race record of 2:13.20 seconds. He was followed by Christopher Isegwe of Tanzania and Gashaw Malese of Ethiopia.
"I was sure I would win as I was well prepared for this race and used to run 300 kilometers per week," he said.
Sugut, who hails from a family of marathoners, also praised the behaviour of the spectators in Mumbai.
"They were a lot better this time; didn't disturb any of the runners. I am definitely coming to Mumbai next time," declared Sugut, who has been participating in marathons for five years.
After collecting his biggest prize, US $30,000, he now heads to Vienna for his next marathon in May.