Defending champions Belihu and Gemechu among those racing on Sunday
Race director Hugh Jones believes this year’s Airtel Delhi Half Marathon course is faster than the one used in previous years and defending champions Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemechu have their sights on the event records on Sunday (November 29).
To comply with health-related measures, this year the elite-only race will see athletes cover around 4.5km, starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, and then take on on two loops of approximately 6km, before returning to the finish outside the stadium by the same route.
“However, with smoother corners, less undulations and with the elite runners not having to contend with mass-race participants, I believe this is a faster course than previous years,” said Jones.
Ethiopia’s two-time men’s defending champion Belihu said: “I have been training very well, and I was disappointed with my fifth place at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland last month, so I am in shape and very motivated to run well here.
“Last year, I was just four seconds outside the course record (59:06 set by Ethiopia’s Guye Adola in 2014) and I think I can find the difference.”
Belihu’s compatriot Gemechu, who revised the women’s course record when winning in both 2018 and 2019 with the mark currently standing at 66:00, added: “I am in shape to go even faster than last year.”
However, the defending champion will face an even stronger set of rivals on Sunday than those she defeated in the past two years.
Among them are Gemechu’s fellow Ethiopian and world half-marathon record-holder Ababel Yeshaneh, plus Kenya’s world marathon record-holder Brigid Kosgei.
“I am coming here looking to show what I can do after finishing fifth at the World Half,” said Yeshaneh. “I fell there and was very frustrated, finishing in tears, because I know I was in shape to win but you just have to pick yourself up and carry on. I have brought the shape I had in Poland to Delhi.”
Kosgei, who ran her remarkable 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon in October 2019, won last month’s London Marathon in 2:18:58 and said: “After London, I took 10 days off, but I have since had six weeks very good preparation for this race.
“I have a good record in half-marathons, but I am not going to make predictions about this race as it is a very tough field. Some of the ladies may be better prepared as they competed at the World Half Marathon Championships last month.”
Ethiopia’s 2020 world half-marathon bronze medallist Amedework Walelegn and Ethiopia’s two-time world 5000m champion Muktar Edris, who will be making his half-marathon debut, are also among the men’s race entries.
While elite athletes will race in Delhi on Sunday, mass runners will take part remotely using the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon Mobile App, running from their own location any time between November 25-29.
The elite men’s race will begin at 07:10 local time and the elite women’s race will start at 08:30.
Organisers added: “Airtel Delhi Half Marathon will follow the highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones to ensure a COVID free race for the elite runners.”
Anti-pollution measures include the use of ‘anti-smog machines’ from November 27-29 on the roads in the internal periphery of the JLN Stadium and the event course.