There were doubts about how the 2020 edition of the London Marathon will pan out given the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on Sunday, all such questions were answered in an emphatic manner when Ethiopian Shura Kitata pushed past a late challenge from Kenyan Vincent Kipchumba to take home the men's title as Brigid Kosgei of Kenya defender her women's crown.
The London Marathon was closed to amateurs this year. But the organisers extended participation by expanding the race into a virtual one with as many as 45,000 runners joining ‘locally’ from their streets using the London Marathon app.
Among them were a group of seven enthusiasts who hit the streets in a Mumbai suburb in the wee hours of Sunday.
They included Dr Mahesh Bedekar, Geetanjali Lenka, Yashwinder Singh, Aditya Rath, Ravi Nadar, Hans and Vijay Gambhire.
“I have been running for five years and running the Super Six (the six best races in the world) has always been my dream,” Dr Bedekar, a seasoned runner, told Olympic Channel.
“I qualified for the Boston race last season, but that was cancelled (this year). Then Berlin too announced that they would not go ahead with the race. So, when the London organisers made the race into a virtual one, it was an easy decision for me.”
Dr Bedekar along with six others from the Striders Running group registered for the race a few months back.
But it was only after their entries were accepted that the group trained for the big day.
“I think it was late June that we started training for this race. It usually takes about four to five months to prepare for a race. But this time, it was about enjoying it.
“We have been held up inside our houses for too long, so to expect a PB (Personal Best) is not something that we were looking for,” said Dr Bedekar who clocked three hours and 33 minutes and eight seconds on Sunday.
Running the 42.2 km-distance aside, the runners in Mumbai tried their bit at making the race a challenging one by opting for a course in Thane -- an extension of the city -- that was filled with elevation and slopes.
“With the (London Marathon) app recording times from 12:00 AM BST, we decided to start our race around 4:40 AM IST. It was all about challenging ourselves,” he said.
“This area of the city usually tends to be humid, but the morning showers, and a few of our friends who had turned up to cheer, helped us push through it.”
They might have missed London’s ‘real’ streets this year, but the runners from Mumbai enjoyed every bit of the virtual marathon on their ‘home course’.