Kipchoge, Degefa take gold in Delhi Half Marathon

Reigning Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge took gold amongst the men and Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa took gold in women's half-marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge took gold in 59 minutes and 44 seconds in the Delhi Half Marathon.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Reigning Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge lived up to the pre-race hype in his first competitive outing since Rio, winning the ninth Airtel Delhi Half Marathon here on Sunday.

The Kenyan took gold in 59 minutes and 44 seconds, four seconds ahead of second-placed Ethiopian Yigrem Demelash (59:48) who also set his own personal best time here. Kipchoge's compatriot, training partner and close friend Augustine Choge was third in 60:01.

Among the women, experienced Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa won in one hour, seven minutes and 42 seconds, well short of the course record of 1:06:54 set by Kenyan Mary Keitany way back in 2009. Compatriot Ababel Yeshaneh was second (1:07:52) and Helah Kiprop of Kenya (1:08:11) finished third. Reigning half marathon world champion and title favourite Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, however, finished a disappointing fifth with a timing of 1:08:28. Both the elite winners pocketed $27,000 each.

At 32, Kipchoge was among the oldest contestants in the elite field but that did not stop the seasoned runner from pushing himself. The poor air quality in the city had been a cause for concern in recent times, with even the courts weighing in with suggestions of avoiding the race if possible but for the elite marathoners, it wasn't an issue through the 21.097 km run.

Kipchoge, who admitted to being nervous with the favourite's tag ahead of the race, managed to hold out against Demelash, a decade younger and the only other runner in the marathon with a sub-60 minute timing against his name.

While Kipchoge won 5000m silver during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, this was his first time in a marathon in the country. “I am happy to come to India and I came here in the capacity of an old runner. The conditions were good,” he said after the race. Asked if he was disappointed with his timing, Kipchoge denied. “I have no issue with my time though I could not break the course record. I have come here to inspire the people of India to take up (long distance) running,” he said.

Among the elite Indian runners, Armyman G. Lakshmanan and Monika Athare won in the men's and women's categories respectively but neither was able to come close to the Indian course record. The contest though was much closer among the men with the podium finishers finishing within eight seconds of each other.

Lakshmanan, who also won the TCS World 10K Bengaluru this year and did not participate in the last two editions, managed to complete the race in one hour, four minutes and 34 seconds to reclaim the title he had won in 2013. Md. Yunus, third-placed in the 2015 edition, bettered his finish by placing second in 1:04:38 while Man Singh was another two seconds adrift (1:04:40).

Among the women, the top-two finishers were separated by a single second while pre-race favourite Swati Gadhave (1:17:43) was further back in third posiiton. Monika Athare took the gold with a personal best timing of one hour, 15 minutes and 34 seconds, diving on to the finishing tape to push youngster Sanjeevani Jadhav, making her half-marathon debut, into second spot, finishing in 1:15:35.

The winners: Elite men: Eliud Kipchoge (Ken, 59:44), Yigrem Demelash (Eth, 59:48), Augustine Choge (Ken, 60:01); elite women: Worknesh Degefa (Eth, 1:07:42), Ababel Yeshaneh (Eth, 1:07:52), Helah Kiprop (Ken, 1:08:11); Indian men: G. Lakshmanan (1:04:34), Md. Yunus (1:04:38), Man Singh (1:04:40); Indian women: Monika Athare (1:15:34), Sanjeevani Jadhav (1:15:35), Swati Gadhave (1:17:43).