Mumbai: The return of seasoned distance runner and London Olympian Ram Singh Yadav has made it a real challenge for last year's top Indian finisher among men, Karan Singh, to repeat his feat in Sunday's Mumbai Marathon.
Yadav had booked his ticket to London by running his career best 2:16:59 in January 2012, but later could not come anywhere near that time in much cooler conditions in Olympics.
Singh, who is also from the Army like Yadav, is going into the race with his confidence boosted by his personal best time of 2:22:30 clocked in the Eindhoven Marathon last year.
But he has to contend with not only the two-time (2009 and 2012) Indian topper Yadav but also with another seasoned marathon runner and three-time topper (2010, 2011 and 2013) Binning Lyngkhoi, with 2:18:47 as his career-best time.
While these three appear to be the prime contenders for the Rs 5-lakh top prize, there are others in the fray like Rashpal Singh and Neeraj Pal Singh, who too are capable of stealing the show.
Incidentally, Ram Singh skipped last year's race while the other four were overtaken by Karan Singh.
There are incentives, apart from the prize money, declared yesterday by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and Tata Consultancy Services to further motivate the Indian runners.
AFI has made it as the pre-qualification race for the World Championship in August by keeping the qualifying standard as 2:18 for men and 2:44 for women.
TCS will sponsor the top two Indian men and women finishers on an all-expense paid trip to New York to take part in the world's biggest marathon in November.
The women's race could be a toss-up between experienced steeple chasers and Asian Games medallists Lalita Babar - the defending champion who won a bronze at the 2014 Games in Incheon - and 2010 Asiad gold medallist Sudha Singh.
Then there is O P Jaisha - 1,500m Incheon Games bronze medallist and 2006 Doha Asiad 5,000m bronze medallist - to look out for in her maiden attempt at the race, along with last year's second-best (among Indians) finisher Vijaymala Patil.