New Delhi: Airtel Delhi Half Marathon organisers have confirmed the participation of the world’s fastest half marathon of the year, Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegay, with the sole aim of attempting to lower the world record. The 21-year-old Tsegay clocked 58.47 when wining the Prague half marathon in March 2012, his attempt at the world record thwarted by the windy conditions there. However, a 6.30 am start in New Delhi and the flat course should give Tsegay perfect conditions to attempt to lower the world record that stands at 58.23, set by Zersenay Tadese in 2010.
Tsegay will lead a talented field of fellow Ethiopians, among them defending champion Lelisa Desisa and course record holder Deriba Merga, who will be engaged in an exciting battle for supremacy with a super fast athletes field from Kenya, when the eighth edition of the world’s most prestigious half marathon will be flagged off from the iconic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on September 30, 2012.
Besides a total prize money purse of USD 210,000, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon will also offer a bonus of USD 25000 for a new world record and USD 10000 for a new course record. The Ethiopians and Kenyans lead a powerful field of men’s athletes, with representation also from Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa and Bahrain will 11 athletes have personal bests of sub-60 minutes.Also in great shape is countryman Lelisa Desisa, the defending champion, who will also be attempting to lower the world record. Desisa, who has a personal best of 59.30, will be running his first half marathon this year. The course record is also there to be broken, but standing in the way will be the man who holds it, Deriba Merga. Merga, two-time past winner of the event, holds the course record of 59.15, set in 2009, and on current form, which saw him clock 59.48 while finishing second in the Ney York City Half Marathon recently, is also one of the contenders for the top spots.
The Kenyan challenge will be spearheaded by Ezekiel Chebii, who clocked 59.05 while winning the Lille Half Marathon early this month. Running alongside him will be Gilbert Masai, who clocked 59.57 while finishing 4th at Lille. Leonard Langat, with a personal best of 59.52 and Peter Kamais, with a personal best of 59.53 are the other notable Kenyans. Moroccan Abdellah Fathi, Tanzanian Dickson Marwa and South African Lucky Modike are the other names to watch out for.
The women’s race too will see a battle between the Kenyans and Ethiopians, with Namibia’s Helalia Johannes, who finished 12th in the marathon at the London Olympics, emerging as the dark horse. The Kenyans will be led by Helah Kiprop and Caroline Kilel, with Helen Kimutai and Irene Mogaka also names to watch out for.Helah, the winner of the World 10K Bangalore 2012, also won the Groesbeek 10K and the Zwolle Half Marathon in 2012 and has three sub-70 half marathon finishes this year. Caroline Kilel, who has a personal best of 68.16, clocked a fast 68.26 while finishing 2nd in the Houston Half Marathon 2012 and is also winner of the Boston Marathon 2011.
The Ethiopian challenge will be spearheaded by Aselefech Mergia, twice winner here and winner of the Dubai Marathon 2012, and Belaynesh Oljira, winner of the Houston Half Marathon 2012. Also among the notables will be Yimer Wude and Ashu Kasim, who clocked a fast 2:23.09 while winning the Xiamen Marathon recently.
Namibian Helalia, Moroccan Malika Asahssah and Tanzanian Mary Naali can also spring a surprise.
The Delhi Half Marathon has seen a steady progression in the winning times of the men and women, with Kenyan Philip Rugut winning the first edition in 2005 in a timing of 61.54 minutes and Lelisa Desisa stopping the clock at 59.30 in 2011. In between was Merga’s super fast timing of 59.15 set in 2008, which remains the course record.
Among the women, the first edition saw Russia’s Irina Timofeyeca winning in 70.35, while Kenyan Lucy Kabuu breasted the tape in 67.04 in 2011. The course record for the women stands in the name of Kenyan Mary Keitany, who clocked an incredible 66.54 while winning in 2009. Keitany also holds the world record of 65.50.