Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian athlete Alphonce Simbu, who finished fifth at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games men’s marathon in Brazil, leaves for India today for this year’s Mumbai Marathon.
Simbu, one of the best long distance runners in the country at the moment, expressed optimism yesterday that he do the nation proud in the race set for Sunday.
“I know that I will be up against star athletes from various countries across the world. I have trained intensively, so I am ready for anything,” the marathoner told The Citizen by phone from Arusha yesterday.
In August last year, Simbu came close to breaking Tanzania’s Olympics medal drought when he finished fifth in the 42-km race fifth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 24-year-old runner clocked 2:11:15 hours, a difference of 2:31 minutes from the gold winner Kenyan Kipchoge Eliud, who clocked 2:08:44.
Simbu’s finish is the best for the country in recent Olympic Games, signaling a bright future for the Arusha runner. The last time Tanzania won a medal at the Olympics was at the 1980 Moscow Games, where Filbert Bayi (3,0000m, steeplechase) and Suleiman Nyambui (5,000m) bagged silver medals.
Ethiopia’s Dinknesh Mekash, who finished second in the 2015 Frankfurt Marathon, is among runners highly tipped to win the Mumbai race in the women’s discipline.
There will also be a battle in half marathon, Dream Run (6km) and Senior Citizens Race (4.3km) during the 14th edition of the event.
Last year, Kenya’s Gideon Kipketer led an African clean sweep of the men’s marathon in podium at the Mumbai Marathon.
Amazingly, Kipketer started the race as a pacer or pace-setter and took the lead midway through the second half of the race.
His finish of 2:08:35 was almost a full second faster than the 2013 course record 2:09:32 set by Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop.
In the women’s marathon, Ethiopia’s Shuko Genemo in 2:27:50 went home first but could not beat the women’s course record.
In second place was Kenya’s Bornes Kitur (2:32:00), while Valentine Kipketer, Gideon’s sister, finished a distant third in 2:34:07 after a shoe mishap.
Kenya’s Jacob Chesari Kirui will lead a powerful contingent of runners to this year’s Mumbai Marathon.
Chesari was fourth placed last year at the same race, crossing the finish line with a time of 2:11.59, three minutes late after the race winner fellow Kenyan Gideon Kipketer who cut the tape in 2:08.35 which is the fastest course time.
The 33-year-old, who has a personal best of 2:07.46, leads five other Kenyans to battle for honor at Mumbai Marathon.
Another Kenyan to feature in the race is Samuel Mwaniki.