For some of the world’s best runners, the Airtel Delhi half marathon has come as a pleasant surprise in a season that has seen large numbers of races being cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. No wonder, the Delhi half marathon will see a strong field in action on the race day on Sunday. It will even have some of the track stars like 5000m world champion Muktar Idris, who will be looking to test his preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. All of them were happy to get an opportunity to run in the pandemic-affected season.
The men’s and women’s defending champions – Andamlac Belihu and Tsehay Gemechu, both looking for a hat-trick of titles in the Delhi half marathon – are keen to chase a course record.
“Thanks to the organisers that this race is being held. Because of Covid 19 problem everywhere races are closed (this season). I am very happy and excited to be here. The course is fantastic and I have been following a good programme, focused on my training. I think it is possible to break the course record,” said Ethiopian Belihu, who clocked 59:10 on way to the title last year, still short of Guye Adola’s course record 59:06 seconds set in 2014.
The women’s field will see a strong competition. Besides defending champion and course record holder Gemechu (66:50), world record holder in half marathon, Ababel Yeshaneh and marathon, Brigid Kosgei will also run the course. One of the world’s top-class runners Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old world record in the women’s marathon in Chicago last year. She is now training with the Tokyo Olympics in mind. She is coming to New Delhi after defending her London marathon title.
“I took 10 days off after London but I have had six weeks of very good training for this race. I have a good record in half marathons. It is a tough field here and it is going to be a tough race on Sunday.”
“My target is to win that gold at Tokyo Olympics for my country. The preparations for the Olympics are going on slowly because of the pandemic. This race is part of the preparations now,” she said.
Kosgei and Yeshaneh admitted they were surprised to see the race being held in Delhi this year. “We lost out on many races this year so when the news came of Delhi race being held, my family asked how come they are holding a race? It was a surprise,” said Yeshaneh, who finished fifth in the half marathon world championship.
Kosgei said she told her family that it is a very well-organized race. “I told them I will take care of myself and follow the rules,” she said.
Defending women’s champion Gemechu said they have been training well and ready to go all out on Sunday. “Because of COVID pandemic restrictions we are not training in groups but individually we have been training well and looking forward to this race. I will look to set a new course record”
Two-times 5000m World Champion Idris will be running in his first half marathon on Sunday. “We missed the whole season. This race will help me to prepare for the big race (Tokyo Olympics),” he said.