Defending champions, record holders ready for Delhi Half Marathon

Looking forward to competing in the marathon at a “meet and greet” session on Thursday, the participants promised their best performance.

Champion runners: (From left) Tsehay Gemechu, Brigid Kosgei and Ababel Yeshaneh ready for the Airtel Delhi Half marathon. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

There was surprise back home when they set out to compete in the Airtel Delhi Half marathon scheduled for Sunday, but the defending champions and world record holders are at ease in the Capital. Looking forward to competing in the marathon at a “meet and greet” session here on Thursday, they promised their best performance.

Few sporting events in the world have been organised since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite seeing a surge in the positive cases of the coronavirus, the organisers in the Capital have assured the safest arrangements, much to the satisfaction of the assembled world-class field.

'Very happy'

“Very happy to be in India. I love to run here,” Andamlac Belihu, the men’s defending champion, said.

Belihu was quite confident that the “focused training” back home could lead to a course record, even though he had missed a medal in the world championship.

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The two-time world champion in 5,000 metres, Muktar Edris, who is grappling with a bit of pain on his right thigh, said he was hoping to run a good race.

Defending women’s champion, Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu, aspired to emulate her compatriot Derartu Tulu in winning Olympic medals. She said she had missed the half marathon world championship last month in Poland as she was training for the 3,000 metres event.

'Ready'

Ababel Yeshaneh and Brigid Kosgei, who hold the world record in half marathon and marathon, respectively, for women, said they were happy to be competing again. Kosgei, a phenomenal runner, had won the Chicago and London marathons in the last two years.

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“I am ready to run well. I like both half marathon which is like preparation for the more challenging marathon,” said Kosgei, who broke the women’s marathon world record last year in Chicago.

“After London, I took 10 days off. I have had six weeks of very good preparation for this race,” warned Kosgei.

“It was frustrating when I fell three kilometres from the finish. I was in shape to win but you just have to pick yourself up and carry on,” Yeshaneh said, referring to her fifth-place finish in the half marathon world championship.

The lack of mass participation does not bother the elite runners, as they are used to being in a pack, running their own race, far ahead of the rest.