In what will go down as a classic in Indian road running history, Sabastian Sawe (Kenya) took the men’s title and Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu the women’s crown in the Elite category of the landmark 15th edition of the Tata Consultancy Services World 10K Bengaluru on Sunday.
Among the Indian elite, Murli Gavit, making only his second appearance at the iconic race, dashed to a sensational finish to bag the Indian men’s title while debutant Tamshi Singh won the women’s category.
Sawe, who clocked the world’s fifth fastest 10K time in Germany last month, ran a superbly-paced race to win in a close contest and Gemechu was equally impressive in the way she kicked on at the end in the prestigious USD 210,000 World Athletics Gold Label Road Race. The winners took home an equal prize cheque of USD 26,000 each in what is possibly one of the greatest road races in Asia. Sawe won in a time of 27:58.24 and Gemechu in 31:38.
It was an Ethiopian 1-2-3 in the women’s race with Fotyen Tesafe finishing four seconds behind Gemechu and the experienced Dera Dida only seven seconds shy of the winner.
It came down to the final kilometre after the trio grippingly ran almost similar times through 2.5 km, 5 km and 7.5 km splits and it was a strong finish by Gemechu that saw this year’s Tokyo Marathon runner-up take the crown.
In her previous visit to Bengaluru in 2019 Gemechu had finished sixth. “I was determined to get this victory. In 2019, I had made one mistake, this time I had the experience so this was an easier race. I think my track experience came in handy today,” she told reporters after her sensational win.
Three Kenyans finished in the top four in the men’s race that saw last year’s winner and course record holder Nicholas Kipkoekir come fourth, as his countryman Sawe won in spectacular style after kicking on at the finish.
Sawe won milliseconds ahead of Rodrigue Kwizera (Burundi) after the latter was ahead moments earlier in what was a gripping race. “It’s my first time here. I was feeling confident coming into the run because I’m coming off a victory in Germany. The last two kilometres was really tough. I told myself I have to push really hard, even the last 500m was very challenging,” he said.
Powerful finish by Murli and Tamshi
In the race for the Indian elite athletes, India's most promising distance runner Murli ensured a brilliant finish clocking 29:58.03 with Harmanjot Singh giving a close contest for the top spot. He finished with a time of 29:59.10 and Uttam Chand finished third with a time of 29:59.24.
The Indian men’s race followed a similar template as the international one with the athletes running together as a pack from the get-go. Initially, it was Uttam Chand who led the charge, with Gaurav hot on his heels.
While Uttam was being chased by Gaurav for most of the race, it was Harmanjot Singh and Murli Gavit who powered through the pack in the latter stages of the contest. The rankings changed significantly in the final couple of kilometres as the likes of Harmanjot and Murli went through the gears and took the contest down to the wire.
It was Murli who had just the right amount of fuel in the tank to power through the home stretch as he stormed into the lead and finished ahead of Harmanjot and Uttam. “This was my second race here. I last took part in TCS World 10K in 2015. The weather didn’t matter much to me, I have been training well. Although this wasn’t my personal best, I am happy with the big win,” stated an elated Murli.
Among the Indian women, it wasn’t as much of a tight contest, as the 19-year-old Tamshi Singh produced a personal best performance in only her first appearance here. She timed 34:12 while Poonam Sonune was second with a time of 34:29, and Seema finished third with the clock reading 34:30.
Both Murli and Tamshi walked away with a grand cash purse of INR 2,75,000 each.
The start of the women’s race, however, was a different story. It was Neetu Kumari and Bharti Nain who led the pack for the first 12 minutes, with Tamshi staying on their shoulders. But soon after, it was Tamshi who broke away just after the mid-way stage, and continued to build on.
Soon enough, the youngster had a lead of about 50 metres. With no one coming close to challenging her, Tamshi continued in her merry ways finishing off the contest in style. “It feels great to win in my debut race here. I’ve never ran the 10K before. The prize money here will definitely help me in my career to buy shoes and other gear. Next, I’m going to prepare for All India University meet, that is my next target,” stated Tamshi.
The 15th edition held in India’s running capital of Bengaluru also witnessed over 27,000 amateurs participate in a road race that has changed the fitness paradigm of the country and grown into one of the greatest road races in Asia.