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Ram Baboo (Uttar Pradesh) and Manju Rani (Punjab) rewrote the men and women's 35km Race Walking National Records on the concluding day of the 10th National Race Walking Championships on the Morabadi Road.
Though Manju Rani became the first Indian woman to clock a sub-3 hour effort over the distance, winning in 2:57:54.00 and Ram Baboo improved his own mark by nearly five minutes to 2:32:36.00, neither of them was able to match the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 the qualifying standards set at 2:51:30.00 (women) and 2:29:40.00 (men).
With the defending champion and National Record holder Ramandeep Kaur trailing, the 23-year-old Manju Rani strode ahead with confidence to secure her first win in five starts since preferring the 35km event in September 2021. The maiden victory was doubly sweeter since she became the first Indian woman to cover the distance inside 3 hours.
"I have worked very hard for this and am happy that I could break the National Record today," Manju Rani said. "I will train hard and improve gradually to win laurels for the country."
Seeking for a hat-trick of titles after winning the National Games in Gandhinagar and the National Open Athletics Championships in Bengaluru in October last, Uttarakhand's Payal was unable to stay abreast of Manju Rani and finished the race a shade outside her personal best to take the silver medal. Bandana Patel (Uttar Pradesh) took bronze with a personal best time of 3:11:35.00.
A determined Ram Baboo regained the National Race Walking Championships crown that he had ceded to Juned Khan in April last. The 23-year-old thus consolidated his position as the country's pre-eminent 35km Race Walker, having won back-to-back titles in the National Games in Gandhinagar and the National Open Athletics Championships in Bengaluru in October last year.
"I had the confidence in my ability and knew that I had trained right for the event," Ram Baboo said. "I am delighted that the course here encourages us to aim for improvement."
The defending champion Juned Khan, 23, improved his personal best by four minutes but found Ram Baboo a tough nut to crack and had to be satisfied with the silver medal this time. The vastly experienced Chandan Singh also lowered his personal best by over 4 minutes to 2:36:55.00 but had to content himself with a fourth successive bronze medal in National-level 3km events.
Men's 35km: 1. Ram Baboo (Uttar Pradesh) 2:31:36.00 (New National Record. Old: 2:36:34.00, Ram Baboo, Gandhinagar, October 2022); 2. Juned Khand (Haryana) 2:36:04.00; 3. Chandan Singh (Uttarakhand) 2:36:55.00.
Women's 35km: 1. Manju Rani (Punjab) 2:57:54.00 (New National Record. Old: 3:00:04.00, Ramandeep Kaur, Ranchi, April 2022); 2. Payal (Uttarakhand) 3:05:43.00; 3. Bandana Patel (Uttar Pradesh) 3:11:35.00.