Elite Indian runners all set for Delhi Half-Marathon

Targeting to run the 21 kilometre-plus distance in about 70 minutes, O. P. Jaisha, Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar are confident of setting a new national mark despite the smoggy weather of the capital city.

Kenya's Florence Kiplagat won the women's category race in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon last year.   -  Sandeep Saxena

The Airtel Delhi half-marathon promises to be an exciting affair for the home fans as the elite Indian women runners are determined to produce improved performances on Sunday.

Targeting to run the 21 km-plus distance in about 70 minutes, O. P. Jaisha, Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar are confident of setting a new national mark despite the smoggy weather of the capital city.

Like all the top long-distance runners from around the world, the Indian girls are also looking forward to use the race as one of preparatory events in the run-up to next year's Rio Olympics.

Former world cross country and half-marathon champion and title holder, Florence Kiplagat, who set a new world record of 65.09 in the Barcelona earlier this year, will be the athlete to beat in the women's section.

Competing with Florence is Hamburg marathon winner, Meseret Hailu, who defeated the Kenyan in 2012 to win the Egmond half-marathon. The Ethiopian with a personal best of 66.56 is a strong contender for the title.

Several other African women who have clocked 67 and 68 minutes in the past are likely to make the race a keenly-fought affair.

Half-marathon world record holder Zersenay Tadese (p.b. 58.23), the first Eritrean to win an Olympic medal, is close to his best. The winner of six world titles has shown his good form by winning the half-marathon in the All African Games.

Tadese will be challenged by a bunch of fellow Africans – including Atsedu Tsegay, Kenneth Kipkemoi, Jonathon Maiyo, Mosinet Geremew – who have achieved sub-60 personal bests.

Besides, reigning Great South Run 10 miles champion Ugandan Moses Kipsiro, who had won 5000m and 10,000m gold medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games here, has the ability to spring a surprise.

Among the Indian men, Nitender Singh Rawat, T. Gopi and Mohammad Yunus are sure of bettering their performances.

The promoters of the race have received around 34,000 entries across all categories and hope to stage a good show primarily due to the presence of some big names.