21 November 2017

Ethiopia: Almaz, Birhau Take Delhi Half Marathon Title

Almaz Ayana crossing the finishing line This was the second time for Birhanu to win the Delhi half marathon title.

The Ethiopian wonder athlete Almaz Ayana bagged the maiden gold Delhi half marathon on Sunday despite concerns of air pollution.

Almaz emerged victorious in her first maiden half marathon race clocking one hour, seven minutes and 11 seconds to cover the 21.097km distance.

This was a sweeping victory for the Ethiopian female athletes. Her compatriots Ababel Yeshaneh and Netsanet Gudeta came out second and third clocking 1:07:19 and 1:07:24, respectively.

It was reported from spot that the Ethiopians ran away with all three taking top positions from the start. No body intervened in the race until the finish. It was an overwhelming victory.

Almaz who set the 10,000m world record while winning the gold in Rio Olympics, transferred her stunning form on track to road race, the reporter said after finishing her race.

In the men's elite race, the 2015 winner Birhanu Legese emerged the winner in 59 minutes and 46 seconds while another Ethiopian Andamlak Belihu was second in 59:51. Leonard Korir of United States was third in 59:52. Reigning world marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya finished sixth in 1:00.04.

Almaz and Birhanu, however, could not break the course records of 1:06:54 and 59:06, in the order of that. The record still stands in the names of Mary Keitany (2009) of Kenya and Guye Adola of Ethiopia in 2014.

Both Almaz and Birhanu pocketed USD 27,000 as winners' prize money.

Almaz said that she felt so happy for winning the Delhi half marathon in her debut. She added: "I was a bit nervous and confused, not knowing what to do, whether to follow other runners and to take the lead. The course was very good but the chilly weather created some problem."

She further said, "Also, when the pacesetter dropped out, I was a bit confused and could not find the way. The language issue (she can't speak English) also created problems. If that was not a problem I could have run a faster time."

Basically a track runner, Almaz, who also won a 10,000m gold in the London World Championships in August, said she may consider coming back to Delhi in future. "It is not easy to run road races and I would prefer to run on tracks. But I think I will come back here," she added. For Birhanu, the course in Delhi was not new for him as he had won two years ago.

"I knew the course as I was here in 2015, and that helps. Initially, I thought of running ahead of the pack after 15km but I did that after the 20km mark," he said, adding that he will come back next year.

Among the Indian women, L Suriya bagged the gold in a 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.

Nitendra Singh Rawat won 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 got the silver when the timing was broken down to decimal seconds.

Besides participating in the elite category, runners also took part in four categories of Great Delhi Run, Timed 10K Run, Senior Citizens Run and Champions with Disability Run. The pollution level in the city though has got better after the early morning rain on Sunday.

Before the race, the organisers said that around 35,000 runners took part in this race. Around 30,000 had taken part in the race in 2015, while 34,000 took part last year, according to race organisers, Procam International. The Delhi Half Marathon, one of the top half marathons in the world, has been mired in controversy after the Indian Medical Association called for its cancellation owing to the smog in the national capital.

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