Mutunga, who returned back to the country on Friday alongside the winning Kenyan side of the Chiba Ekiden Marathon Relay in Japan, stopped the timer at 29:23 in the hilly course that runs from Kanyakine to Nkubu.
Race organisers received Sh1.330m in backing from title sponsors Safaricom (Sh750, 000), area MP and Minister for Energy Kiraitu Murungi (Sh200,000), Kenya Volleyball Federation chair, Waithaka Kioni (Sh100,000), Athletics Kenya (Sh100,000), AK treasurer, Joseph Kinyua (Sh50,000) and two parliamentary aspirants who added Sh30,000.
In the men’s main race, Mutunga, the World Youth 3000m silver winner who blasted to 28:08 in the third 10km stage of the marathon relay in Japan to aid his team to the title on Wednesday, will face stiff competition from among others, last year’s Hong Kong Marathon champion and home runner, Cyprian Kiogora.
Fellow Machakos based runner, Cosmas Kyeva, returns to the race he finished third last year aiming for the title at the event where world 3000m record holder, Daniel Komen and the 2005 World 5000m champion, Benjamin Limo will grace.
Syombua, who won the women’s main event in 34:45, will be the favourite to defend her crown.
Speaking during the presentation of the sponsorship, event patron Murungi mooted plans to establish a Meru Marathon as the country moves from constituency to county governance.
“I think we should upgrade this race so that we no longer do a road race and try a full marathon for the entire nine constituencies. That way, we shall discover the (Paul) Tergats in the region,” the Energy Minister added.
AK chair, Isaiah Kiplagat, said the federation was seeking to bring back the interest in the sport by encouraging the organisation of such races to tap talent.
“We have found a lot of talent through these competitions that look small but are big since when you introduce and induct people of five to ten years, they grow seeing that athletics is good.
“We are planning of having a track meeting in the Meru Kinoru Stadium after this for the first time in 20 years so that we can encourage the growth of the sport in this region,” Kiplagat remarked.
Organisers are considering increasing the prize money for the next edition following the rising sponsorship.
South Imenti AK chair, Kimathi Mutuerandu said winners of the main 10Km men and women road races will pocket Sh50,000 each with runner-ups and bronze winners taking home Sh25,000 and Sh20,000.
“We have also introduced prizes for the top local runners across the line with Sh11,000, Sh6,000 and Sh4,000 set aside for the top three in the main races,” Mutuerandu added.
Junior races, 8km for men and 6km for women, individual youth runs of 4km and 2km, veterans’ event and school team races of 2km, 4km, 6km and 8km will complete the programme.