29 sept 2012
Delhi runs once again as Airtel Half marathon hits the streets
New Delhi: Around 32,000 people, including athletes and celebrities, came together once again for the sheer love of running as the eighth edition of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon began with swarming crowds and amazing enthusiasm.
Some of the world’s top long distance runners will participate in the USD 210,000 event, which has world 800m record holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha as its brand ambassador.
Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Kenya’s Lucy Kabbu are the defending champions, while Suresh Kumar and Lalita Babar are India’s defending champions.
The Delhi half marathon, recognised by the IAAF as a ‘gold label Event’ is one of the richest marathons in the world. The male and female winners will get USD 25,000 each, while the Indian winners will be richer by Rs. 2,50,000 each.
A world record makes the winner’s purse double and course records will also get incentives.
A super-fast men’s elite field, with 12 athletes having sub-60 minute personal bests, and an equally powerful women’s field, among them Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia, Namibian Helalia Johansson and Kenyan Caroline Kilel will run the race.
Desisa and Kenya’s Ezekiel Chebii, who recently clocked 59.05 while winning at Lille and is ranked the world’s No 3 road runner, have already expressed their readiness to have a go at the course record of 59.15, which stands in the name of Deriba Merga.
Desisa, who had been training on track for 10,000m in London Olympics, clocked 59:30 for his triumph at Delhi last year. Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegaye, who clocked his personal best 58:47 in Prague this season, will also be fancying his chances with an eye not only on the course record, but on the world record held by Eritrean Zersenay Tadese.
“I am competing with these Ethiopians for the first time. They are very tough competitors and will run a strong race. Since this is my first visit to India, I want to do well in this race and am confident and in good shape,” said Chebii.
Two-time winner (2008 and 2009) and course record holder Deriba Merga of Ethiopia pulled out of the event in the last minute.
In the women’s section, Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia will lead the pack and hopes to win this year after recovering from a leg injury.
“I stopped training due to my injury but now I’m back. I am training well to perform my best in this Half Marathon,” said Aselefech, who has won this event in 2008 and 2010.
Aselefech knows the competition will be tough as Helah Kiprop, Caroline Kilel (both from Kenya) and Helalia Johannes of Namibia will give her tough competition.
Kiprop won the TCS World 10K Bangalore in year, where she clocked 32:22 mins and went on to win the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon with a best of 1:08:26. Caroline Cheptanui Kilel is the winner at the 2011 Boston Marathon and the 2010 Frankfurt Marathon.
Kilel has also won marathons in Ljubljana, Taipei, Nairobi and Palermo. Her personal best for the distance is 2:22:36 hours (set in Boston, 2011). She also competes in half marathons and has a personal best of 1:08:16 hours over that distance.
Johannes, who participated in the Beijing and London Olympics – where she finished 12th, holds the Namibian records in all long-distance runs.
“The Delhi Half Marathon is a big event for us. I have trained well for this and hope to give my best,” she stated.
The race will have 10 men with sub-60 times and six women with sub-70 times.
There will be added attraction for the Indian athletes this time around, with promoters Procam International announcing a bonus of Rs. 1 lakh for a new course record.
The men’s course record of 64 minutes was set by Deepchand Saharan in 2009, while the women’s course record of 67.12 is held by Kavita Raut, set in 2009. Raut, winner in 2007 and 2008, makes an appearance in the event after a gap of three years.
The men’s field will also have 2010 winner Irappa D Akki, besides fast running names like Soj Mathew, M D Yunus, V L Dangi, Kheta Ram, Ajay Patel, Indrajeet Patel, Ratti Ram Saini, Sandeep Singh Patel, Pritam Bind, Angad Kumar and full marathon specialist Lyngkhoi Bining, in the field of 73 elite Indian males.
Among the women, besides Lalita and Kavita, the other fancied names are Sudha Singh, last year’s runner-up Kiran Tiwari, besides the young Monica Athare, winner of the recent World 10K Bangalore.
Another great story is that of 96-year-old Mann Kaur, who will be cynosure of all eyes too, as the organisers announced her participation in the event on Monday.
Kaur, who hails from Chandigarh, raced her way to glory in many championships with training from son Gurdev Singh, who lives in Canada and is 75-years-old himself.
Recently, Kaur won a gold medal each in the 100 and 200-meter categories in the World Masters Athletic Championship in Sacramento, USA through the Masters Athletic Federation of India.
Talking about her participation in the event, Mann Kaur said, “I feel privileged to have represented India at the World Masters Athletic Championship. This year, my son and I are participating in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and I am really excited. It’s a message for all the people around -Have Feet, Will Run, Have Will, Will Triumph!.”