Mumbai: Even though happy at winning his first major marathon title by bagging the gold at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in New Delhi, Kenyan John Kelai, however felt that absence of spectators along the route in the capital because of security reasons was a big let down.
"The difference between Mumbai (where he has won twice in the past) and Delhi is while the CWG race (in October, 2010) was quiet and serene because of the tight security, in Mumbai the spectator participation uplifted the runners," said the 34-year-old Kenyan athlete at a press conference here on Thursday.
Kelai, who won the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in 2007 and 2008, is among the favourites to win the 8th edition of the richest prize money marathon in Asia on January 16 but can expect tough competition from the strongest-ever men`s field for the event.
Kelai said that the mass participation in Mumbai boosted the morale of the elite runners and the cheering of the crowd along the route gave them a fresh impetus especially on the return stretch where the racers have to negotiate the Kemp`s Corner flyover.
"The last part of the race in Mumbai has ups and downs and the cheering from the spectators gives us a big morale boost. That is the difference between Mumbai and Delhi," said Kelai who clocked 2 hours, 12 minutes and 3 seconds when winning here in 2007 and 2:12:27 while holding on to his title in 2008.
The Mumbai race offers USD 325,000 prize money with the men`s and women`s full marathon winners taking home USD 36,000 each, an increase of USD 5,000 from the 2010 race.