Defending champions Belihu and Gemechu aiming to create history in Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

Harpal Singh Bedi

New Delhi: Defending champions  Ethiopian  pair  of  Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemecu  will  run with the  aim  for an unprecedented third successive men and women’s titles  in  the US$233.270  Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) here on 29th November.

Winner in men’s and women ‘s sections in this prestigious World Athletics Gold Label Road will earn an identical  first prize cheques of US$27,000. .

The 16th edition of  ADHM  will be unlike any previous edition with only an estimated 60 elite international and Indian runners in action on the Delhi roads,with the  traditional start and finish in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium the event being held in a bio-secure bubble.

According to  Race promoters Procam International , this year’s  field  will see  participation of 13 men in the  elite field  who have run under the world class benchmark of one hour, and five of them have actually run faster than Belihu in their careers including Adola who returns to Delhi for the first time since his record run six years ago.

Belihu’s compatriot Guye Adola still holds the ADHM course record with 59:06 the the latter clocked in 2014 but Belihu has gone very close in the last two years with 59:18 and a personal best 59:10 in 2018 and2019 respectively.
The fastest man in the field is Bahrain’s 2018 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships silver medallist Abraham Cheroben, who holds the Asian record for the distance with 58:40.

Two other men to watch will be the Ethiopian pair of Amdework Walelegn, who was second in Delhi last year and also took the bronze medal at 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships last month, and 2017 and 2019 world 5000m champion Muktar Edris, who will be making his half marathon debut.

However the defending champion will be aiming , perhaps even going under 59 minutes, and confirm his place as the most successful runner in ADHM history after having also placed second in his race debut in 2017.

“I have been training well in (the Ethiopia capital) Addis Ababa for the last couple of months and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to race in Delhi, a city I always enjoy returning to and racing in,” commented Belihu, who will turn 22 just over a week before race day.

“This has been a difficult year, for everyone around the world, not just professional athletes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I have been training alone much more than that I am normally used to but my fifth place at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Poland last month has assured me that I am in good shape and I am confident I can put up a good defence of my title,” he added“

In women’s section last year, Tsehay Gemechu improved her own women’s course record from 2018 by no less 50 seconds when she ran a stunning personal best of 66:00

She  would like to go even faster this year but, like so many runners around the world, her training and racing this year have been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gemechu will have a host of outstanding rivals in this year’s race, arguably the strongest women’s field ever seen in the history of the ADHM with seven women having run under 67 minutes. Among them are two of her compatriots, Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Netsanet Gudeta.

“COVID-19 is a disaster which has affected everyone’s life all over the globe and, definitely, it has affected my training, not least in the early stages of the pandemic when we were all fearful of infection. Later, my coach and I decided to take care of ourselves, taking into account all the advice from the World Health Organisation, and I started my own individual training programme with my main goal of coming back to Delhi, although since September I have had some races on the track,” reflected Gemechu, who will turn 22 in December.

“Like all the athletes who will be coming to Delhi, I’d like to express my thanks to the race promoters Procam International who have committed their time and effort and invested their money in making sure this race goes ahead while we all respect the appropriate health measures,” she added.

The in-form Yehualaw finished second  last year  just one second behind Gemechu, and showed she’s one of the rising stars of women’s distance running by finishing third at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships last month in a personal best of 65:19 while Gudeta finished eighth in Poland but helped Ethiopia to team gold and was the 2018world half marathon champion.

Non-elite runners of all abilities will have the chance to participate from any location, running at any time between25-29 November via the ADHM App. Details of how to download and use this app can found on the ADHM 2020 website airteldelhihalfmarathon.procam.in

Elite fields for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2020 (with personal bests)

Men
Andamlak Belihu (ETH)               59:10
Abraham Cheroben (BRN)         58:40
Guye Adola (ETH)                     59:06

Categories: India

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