Fast time will be the obvious target of all the top runners at the 13th edition of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon – and the 10th anniversary of Airtel becoming the title sponsor – with 2017 world champions Geoffrey Kirui and Almaz Ayana both looking to make a big impact on the IAAF Gold Label Road Race this coming Sunday (19 November).
Both runners dodged diplomatically around the issue of whether they would beat the existing course records at the traditional pre-race press conference on Thursday, but the pair commented that they were in excellent shape and would not on the start line in Delhi if they were not ready to run well.
The men’s course record is 59: 06 and was set by Ethiopia’s Guye Adola in 2014 while the women’s course record has been standing since 2009 and belongs to Kenya’s Mary Keitany at 1:06.54.
Kirui, who won the men’s marathon at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 this summer, told the gathered media: “If I compare myself to my last appearance here (in 2015), I’m in much better shape and my body has got stronger than before.”
The Kenyan runner was sixth in a high-quality affair two years ago, making a breakthrough that caught the attention of running fans around the world the race, and he set what remains his personal best of 59:38.
“Running the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is not going to be easy for me because some of my friends and fellow runners here have been running half marathons all the time.
“This is my second time here and I’m ready, but it entirely depends on how I am feeling Sunday. Today I’m feeling good but Sunday maybe a different day,” added Kirui.
Despite his feats over the classic marathon distance this year, which also include a win at the Boston Marathon in April, Kirui has not actually run a competitive half marathon since his outing in Delhi two years ago.
Kirui is also not the fastest man in the field, which may explain his slight reticence on Thursday, as two of his compatriots have run quicker than the course record and under 59 minutes this year. The in-form Jorum Okumbo and Alex Korio ran 58:48 and 58:51 respectively in Copenhagen in September.
Ethiopia’s reigning 10,000m world champion and world record holder Ayana will be making her debut in a half marathon on Sunday, in her first race since the world championships in August.
“After winning the world championships, I have continued my training. There aren’t many good competitions, so I trained hard for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Even though it’s new territory, it’s running, so I will do my best,” reflected Ayana on Thursday.
“Having said that, while I will look to do well in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, my focus will remain on track events. I will see how my first half marathon goes and then decide if I want to do another,” she added.
In the women’s race, Ayana will face her compatriot Worknesh Degefa, who is not only the defending champion but also the fastest woman in the field having clocked 66:14 in Prague last year.
“I’m happy to come to India to run because the weather is quite similar to back home, so I love it here. The field is strong, Almaz is like my sister, she is my hero. I’ll be very happy for her if she wins. Almaz is very fast and strong. It will be quite difficult to keep up with her,” added the diminutive Ethiopian.
As the only IAAF Gold Label Road Race in India, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon can rightly claim to be the nation’s top distance running event.
All the leading runners will also have in their sights first prize cheques of US$27,000 with a total prize money purse (combined men and women) of US$275,000.
Running enthusiast, Tarun Walecha talks about why runners would want to run the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon despite the smog warnings.
As the month of November begins, the running community in Delhi NCR has always been anxious and excited for the last few years now, and the reason is Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) which is scheduled for third week. We all know what this event means and what it has done to citizens of Delhi, so much that we now actually have a sizable number of people to be called a running community. Circa 2011, when the first thought of running came to my mind, it was because of the ADHM. For many of us who started running that year or before would recall how it was the annual pilgrimage, running one half marathon in a year and basking in it till the next one came. Like everything else running grew and now one could lose count of number of running events that keep happening all year round …but ADHM still remains the most coveted and loved.
The air around us
Not only the running community but the choice of events grew, with an expanding society we have seen many environmental changes as well. Of course most of them haven’t been good as they are clear signs of mismanagement on our part and overburdening of our natural resources. Northern plains in the entire Indian Peninsula have recently been plagued with smog and pollution due to mindless urbanization, automobile and industrial waste and seasonal crop stubble burning. With over 3,00,000 sq km of area affected from Lahore to Varanasi, children in villages, farmers on the fields, workers on the streets are suffering far more than the urban population which still has the access to preventive means such as masks, air conditioners and purifiers.
Love for ADHM
And what do we choose to do, with a huge lobby of emerging activists, medical practitioners and even some reputed runners raising the red flag, posting FB status updates, appearing on media only to target one running event which ironically is conducted with utmost care and concern for the runners. While everyone has a right to their opinion, what has been worse is that we as runners are having to choose between the two, and with few of our runners being on the other side the choice has certainly not been easy. Not to forget the participation to the event is non-mandatory and voluntary, you can skip if choose to. Activism against an event rather than at the cause of chaos isn’t helping anyone other than lowering morale of folks who have been training for months. Have we somewhere misjudged our priorities? … Is our effort really pointed towards making this a better world? … Do we really intend to make a positive change or forget everything post November 19th…
For now, all we need to think of is the big day is here, this Sunday will see us all on the roads of Delhi, running with our heart on our sleeve …. Weather God has been kind and the skies seem to be opening up…with the air clearing up I hope the sane voices would be heard again…and running would be just for the love of it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.
The Indian Medical Association has urged the Delhi HC to postpone the Delhi Half Marathon in the wake of “severe” air quality.
The request came in a letter by the IMA to Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and CM Kejriwal. It was based on a PIL initiated by the HC to address Delhi’s pollution problems.
The Half Marathon is currently scheduled on November 19
Read more: https://www.newsbytesapp.com/timeline/India/12847/66778/will-the-delhi-half-marathon-take-place