Mumbai: The upcoming Mumbai Marathon will be a fiercely fought affair with world's leading athletes, including former world champion Luke Kibet, Ethopia's Siraj Gena and Kenya's Laban Moiben confirming their participation in the event.

The January 15 run has the IAAF Gold Label status and offers a prize money of USD340,000, an increase of USD15,000 what was on offer last year.

While the men's field has 17 Gold Label athletes, with personal bests of below 2 hours and 10 minutes, the women's field has seven such athletes, with personal bests of below 2:30.

The Ethiopians and Kenyans will renew their rivalry once again, with Gena leading a talented bunch of Ethiopians and the Kenyan challenge will be spearheaded by Moiben, former World champion Kibet, William Kipsang and Bernard Kosgei.

Giving the Kenyans and Ethiopians a run for their money will be Moldovan Iaroslav Musinschi, last year's fastest European with a timing of 2:08.32 clocked in May 2010.

The women's field, in which a clean sweep was made by the Ethiopians last year, will once again see strong representation from Ethiopia, with Makda Harun and Fatuma Sado leading the charge.

The Kenyan challenge will come in the form of Lydia Rutto, while Namibia's Hilalia Johannes will also be a name to look out for.

The fastest in the men's field is Kenyan Kipsang, with a personal best of 2:05.49, set in 2008, but the athletes in current form are Ethiopians Gena, who clocked 2:08.31 in Frankfurt on October 30, 2011, Gela Hailu, who clocked 2:10.17 in Italy on November 27, 2011 and Gemedu Haja, who clocked 2:09.20 in Korea in April.

Among the current Kenyans who are in form are Moiben Laban, who clocked 2:10.18 in May in Ottawa, Nixon Machichim, who ran 2:09.37 in Linz in April, John Kyui, who clocked 2:09 in Zurich in April and Luke Kibet.

Among the women, Makda Harun has run a fast 2:27.30 in Venice in October 2011, while Sado Fatuma has run 2:28.01 in Istanbul, also in October.

The Ethiopians can expect to be challenged by Turkey's fast improving Sultan Haydar, Namibia's Johannes Hilalia, who clocked 2:30.35 in Dublin and Russia's Tatyana Vilisova.

(Agencies)