Sudha Singh put in a lung-busting performance at the Mumbai Marathon, shattering her personal best and setting a course record for Indian women, as she completed the race with a time of 2:34:56 to qualify for the World Championships.
Singh's primary target was to achieve a time under 2:37:00, which was set as the qualification mark for the World Championships by the IAAF for female marathon runners, a feat that she managed to achieve quite comfortably by finishing eighth in the race.
The leading positions of the race were largely populated by Ethiopian runners, with Worknesh Alemu bagging first place at 2:25:45, Amane Gobena finishing second with 2:26:09 and Birke Debele coming in at third with a time of 2:26:39.
One of only two non-Ethiopians in the top-10 list, Singh finished the marathon in eighth place, after quickly losing sight of the leading pack by the 10-kilometre mark, where she clocked in 3 minutes behind Mergertu Alemu, who eventually finished in fourth place.
The gap between her and the leading pack remained pretty stable for a while after that, until Worknesh's late surge tore the pack asunder and scattered the runners. Singh did well to maintain her speed, overtaking Dinknesh Mekash near the 40-kilometre mark to better her personal best by nearly 40 seconds.
Prior to Sunday, her personal best over 42 kilometres was 2:35:35, a time that she clocked after finishing in 19th place at the 2015 Beijing World Championships.
Unfortunately, Singh missed out on surpassing OP Jaisha's national record of 2:34:43 by a mere 13 seconds, after failing to realise how close she was to the mark in the final few moments of her race. However, by her own account, the very reason she failed to notice the time, was why she managed to run such a strong race in the first place.
“Actually, I didn’t really know what the time was. I didn’t have a watch on my wrist. If I’d seen the time on a watch, maybe I’d have the national record. Who knows? It’s alright though, now my target has shifted to the national record and I’ll break it soon,” said Singh.
She was quick to justify her decision to not wear a timepiece during races, saying, “I don’t really wear a watch when I race. I keep worrying about the time needlessly and I don’t pay enough attention to the running.”
Singh's achievements at the race are all the more impressive considering the fact that the conditions on Sunday were not ideal for marathon runners.
“The conditions were very tough. I’ve been coming here for many years, but this time was the worst. The air was really polluted and it was really hot," said Dutchman Jos Hermens, an erstwhile long-distance runner turned sports agent.
"It was difficult for the athletes and the course was not as well managed as it could have been. It’s a lot better than it was before, but still, there were so many people who strayed on to the elite track. Despite this, I think the women managed to set a really good pace and their course record was impressive," said Hermens, who commended the pace maintained by the female runners.
Singh attributed her performance to her new pace-setter. who like Singh, is also a steeple-chase athlete. "My pacemaker, whose name is Vicky Tomar, trained with me for almost two months, which helped me out. Since he's also a steeple-chase runner, he got a little tired towards the end of the race and had to drop out.
Despite her impressive performances at the Mumbai Marathon, a race that she has won thrice, Singh's event of choice is the 3000m steeplechase, for which she has won a gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, as well as a silver in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
Her qualification for the World Championships has put her in the slightly awkward predicament of having to choose between the two disciplines, but for Singh, the choice appears to be clear.
'I have a chance at the Asian Championships to win gold, so I need to balance both things. Obviously, the steeplechase is my priority, so I will focus on it as much as possible, but I'll try to prepare for both," concluded Singh.
Updated Date: Jan 20, 2019 22:11:29 IST