Delhi half marathon: Ayana, Legese win men, women gold

Current woman world athlete of the year Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia clinched gold in her debut race while compatriot Berhanu Legese won the men’s event in the Delhi Half Marathon here today.

Ayana, the world’s leading woman long distance runner on track, clocked one hour, seven minutes and 11 seconds to emerge champion in her maiden half marathon race as Ethiopians ran away with all the three top positions.   -  PTI

Current woman world athlete of the year Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia clinched gold in her debut race while compatriot Berhanu Legese won the men’s event in the Delhi Half Marathon here today.

Ayana, the world’s leading woman long distance runner on track, clocked one hour, seven minutes and 11 seconds to emerge champion in her maiden half marathon race as Ethiopians ran away with all the three top positions.

Ababel Yeshaneh and Netsanet Gudeta were second and third, clocking 1:07:19 and 1:07:24 respectively to cover 21.097km distance.

In the men’s elite race, 2015 winner Legese bagged the gold in 59 minutes and 46 seconds while another Ethiopian Anadamlak Belihu was second in 59:51. Leonard Korir of United States was third in 59:52.

Both the men’s and women’s winners pocketed $27,000 as prize money.

Nitendra Singh Rawat, who clinched gold in the Indian men’s race of the Delhi Half Marathon, said his win proved a point to the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) which did not include him among the national campers.

Rawat has not been included in the national camp for the preparation of next year’s Commonwealth and Asian Games as the AFI felt that his recent performances were not up to the mark.

“I have come here to prove a point. I am not being considered for national camp and am training alone in Ranikhet at my Army unit (Kumaon Regimen).

“Today, I have proved a point that I am fit and am still a top distance runner in the country,” he told reporters after winning the half marathon race in a new course record of one hour, three minutes and 53 seconds.

31-year-old Rawat was one of the Indian trio that took part in the Rio Olympics but he finished a disappointing 84th.

“I have not being given any reason why I was not called for the national camp. It is tough to train alone outside the camp,” he added.

AFI Secretary C. K. Valson had earlier said, “Rawat’s performance was not up to the mark after the Rio Olympics. That was the reason why the coaches recommended that he be left out of the camp. So, he is not being called for the national camp,” Valson said.

Both Ayana and Legese could not break the course record of 1:06:54 and 59:06 respectively.

Among the Indian women, L Suriya bagged the gold in course record (for Indians) time of 1:10:31 while veteran long distance runner Sudha Singh and Parul Choudhary were second and third in 1:11:30 and 1:13:09 respectively.

Olympian Nitendra Singh Rawat won the Indian men’s race, clocking a new course record time of 1:03:53 in a dramatic photo finish with G Lakshmanan who also clocked the same 1:03:53 but was declared second when the timing was broken down to decimal seconds.

21-year-old Maharashtra runner Avinash Sable was third in 1:03:58 as he cliched a medal in his debut half marathon race.

He won the third place in a photo finish with Durga Bahadur Budha who also clocked 1:03:58 but had to be content with fourth place.

In fact, all the top three Indian men finishers -- and even the fourth placed runner -- bettered the earlier course record of 1:04.00.

Around 35,000 runners turned out on Delhi roads for the 13th edition of the race, one of the top half marathons in the world, which has been mired in controversy after the Indian Medical Association called for its cancellation owing to the smog in the national capital.

Around 30,000 had taken part in the race in 2015, while 34,000 took part last year, according to race organisers, Procam International.

Tens of thousands of runners, mostly Delhiites, braved the chilly weather -- which was around 15 degree Celcius when the men’s elite race started at 6:40am -- and ran the race despite the health warnings just a few days ago.

The pollution level in the city though has got better with the early morning rain yesterday.

Out of these 35,000 participants, 13,216 (elite and amateur together) ran in the half marathon distance, while the remaining took part in four categories of Great Delhi Run, Timed 10K Run, Senior Citizens Run and Champions with Disability Run.