For the second year running, an Ethiopian won the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, beating a strong field dominated by the Kenyans. Guye Adola, who burst on the international marathon scene only in 2014, ran 59:06 to set a new course record for the race on his way to winning the gold.
Kenyan world champion Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor had to settle for the second place, finishing a second behind, for the third time in the event. Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia finished third in 59:11, bettering his personal best by more than 30 seconds. In fact, all three podium finishers had a better time than the existing record of 59:12, set by Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegay in the previous edition.
It was an impressive finish for a race that, for the most part, had little action. Throughout the 21km course, the top 10-12 elite runners stayed in a pack, running together and making no effort to accelerate or improve their performance. It was only in the last five kilometres that Adola broke away, trying to accelerate. The last kilometre was the fastest as the runners finally decided to step up the pace.
The 24-year-old, bronze medallist at the World Half Marathon, unknown to the world of distance running till last year, kept looking over his shoulder, his nervousness visible as he closed in on the finishing line. But even though Kamworor, who led most of the way from the start, pushed himself towards the end, Adola managed to keep his lead. The new record meant he would also take home the bonus of $9,000 besides the prize money of $27,000.
The women’s race followed a similar script with the elite runners staying close with no exceptional performance. World record holder Florence Jebet Kiplagat defended her title in a time of 1:10.04, a second faster than compatriot and reigning world half marathon champion Gladys Cherono, who finished runner-up for the second year. Degefa Worknesh of Ethiopia finished third in 1:10.07.
Having come straight from the Chicago marathon, where she finished third, Florence was expectedly tired and did not push herself hard. Compatriot Lucy Kabuu led for a large part of the race before Florence broke past, sprinting over the last 100 metres to win the race.
Among the Indians, defending champion Preeja Sreedharan not only retained the title but also set an impressive time of 1:19.03, the tenth fastest overall. It was a brilliant performance from the 32-year-old Preeja, who arrived in the city only a day before the race. She has bid adieu to international competitions and is unlikely to continue competing after the upcoming National Games in Kerala. The Indian record holder Kavita Raut, however, finished fourth, behind talented youngster Monika Athare (1:19.12) and Sudha Singh (1:19.21).
In the Indian men’s category, Suresh Kumar set a time of 1:04.38 to finish comfortably ahead. He was almost half a minute faster than second placed Nitender Singh Rawat while last year’s runner-up Kheta Ram finished third with a timing of 1:04.56.
Elite men: 1. Guye Adola (Eth, 59:06), 2. Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (Ken, 59:07), 3. Mosinet Geremew (Eth, 59:11);
Elite women: Florence Jebet Kiplagat (Ken, 1:10.04), 2. Gladys Cherono (Ken, 1:10.05), 3. Degefa Worknesh (Eth, 1:10.07).
Indian elite men: 1. Suresh Kumar (1:04.38), 2. Nitender Singh Rawat (1:04.54), 3. Kheta Ram (1:04.56);
Indian elite women: 1. Preeja Sreedharan (1:19.03), 2. Monika Athare (1:19.12), 3. Sudha Singh (1:19.21).