It was a double triumph for Ethiopian runners as Solomon Deksisa and Amane Gobena took top honours in the men's and women's categories respectively at the 2018 Mumbai Marathon here on Sunday.
Deksisa powered home in two hours, nine minutes and 34 seconds while Gobena clocked 2:25:49.
India's Gopi Thonakal and fellow armyman Nitendra Singh Rawat finished just outside the top 10 at the 11th and 12th places respectively.
Gopi inched ahead of Nitendra in the last stretch, clocking 2:16:51. Srinu Bugatha, the third best Indian male finisher, was much further down with 2:23:56.
The top three Indian women finishers were Sudha Singh (2:48:32), Jyoti Gawte (2:50:47) and Parul Chowdhary (2:50:47).
Deksisa, the fastest man in the field, arrived here as the pre-race favourite for the men's race due to his career best time of 2:06:22 which was set at the 2016 Rotterdam Marathon.
Nevertheless, after some solid rather than spectacular performances in the last 12 months, he was a marginal rather than prohibitive favourite.
The question over whether Deksisa could win the first marathon of his career and walk away with the $42,000 first prize continued through the first half of the race, the starter's gun having gone off at 7:10 am local time just as the sun was starting to rise and the temperature already at 22 degrees Celsius.
Deksisa notably stayed at the back of the leading pack, avoided dictating the pace and the expression on his face on a number of occasions suggested that he was struggling to find his rhythm although he later said that this was a false impression.
"With pacemakers, I saw no reason to do anything other than stay at the back of the leading pack and I was always comfortable," Deksisa said after the race.
After a fast first 10 kilometres, the pace eased up and a leading group of 11 men went through the halfway point in 64:28, about 30 seconds slower than had been requested from the pacers.
The pace continued to drift away from that required to improve on Gideon Kipketer's 2016 course record of 2:08:35 until Joshua Kipkorir surged ahead at the 26 km mark.
The Kenyan, second in the Mumbai Marathon 12 months ago, kept pushing hard over the next nine kilometres and the leading group had been whittled down to three by the 35 km mark -- Kipkorir, Deksisa and his Ethiopian compatriot Shumet Akalnaw.
However, shortly afterwards, Deksisa threw down the gauntlet and started to go through the gears.
He quickly put a 40-metre gap between himself and Akalnaw, with Kipkorir drifting further back.
Despite Akalnaw clawing back the deficit on Deksisa to perhaps 15 metres with three kilometres to go that was to be the order they finished in.
Deksisa crossed the line 27 seconds ahead of Akalnaw, the latter finishing in a big personal best of 2:10:00 with Kipketer third in 2:10:30.
Gobena, now 35, made up for the disappointment of missing out on selection for the IAAF World Championships last summer by winning her first marathon in three years and taking her career record to eight wins from 22 starts over the classic distance.
A four-member group -- Gobena, Kenya's defending champion Bornes Kitur, along with the Ethiopian pair of Shuko Genemo and Birke Debele -- helped by a male pacemaker went through the halfway point in a surprisingly quick 1:12:27 to give rise to some speculation that the impressive women's course record of 2:24:33 set by Kenya's Valentine Kipketer in 2013 might be under threat.
Shortly after 21 kms, Kitur started to push hard and soon found that she only had Gobena for company.
The pair, still with the Kenyan pacemaker Bernard Soi in attendance, stayed together until the 31 km point when Kiturn started to struggle with the relentless pace and left her Ethiopian rival out on her own.
Gobena then focussed on her task and produced an impressive exhibition of solo running and although she tired slightly over the final three kilometres the Ethiopian still came home in the second fastest winning time in the history of the Mumbai Marathon, which this year celebrated its 15th edition.
Kitur came home second in 2:28:48, a personal best by 13 seconds -- claiming her third successive year on the Mumbai Marathon podium after being second in 2016 and winning last year -- while Genemo was third in 2:29:41.